Articles | Volume 14, issue 17
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 9013–9027, 2014
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 9013–9027, 2014

Research article 02 Sep 2014

Research article | 02 Sep 2014

One-year observations of size distribution characteristics of major aerosol constituents at a coastal receptor site in Hong Kong – Part 1: Inorganic ions and oxalate

Q. Bian1,*, X. H. H. Huang2, and J. Z. Yu1,2 Q. Bian et al.
  • 1Department of Chemistry, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
  • 2Institute of the Environment, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
  • *now at: Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Abstract. Size distribution data of major aerosol constituents are essential in source apportioning of visibility degradation, testing and verification of air quality models incorporating aerosols. We report here 1-year observations of mass size distributions of major inorganic ions (sulfate, nitrate, chloride, ammonium, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium) and oxalate at a coastal suburban receptor site in Hong Kong, China. A total of 43 sets of size-segregated samples in the size range of 0.056–18 μm were collected from March 2011 to February 2012. The size distributions of sulfate, ammonium, potassium and oxalate were characterized by a dominant droplet mode with a mass mean aerodynamic diameter (MMAD) in the range of ~ 0.7–0.9 μm. Oxalate had a slightly larger MMAD than sulfate on days with temperatures above 22 °C as a result of the process of volatilization and repartitioning. Nitrate was mostly dominated by the coarse mode but enhanced presence in fine mode was detected on winter days with lower temperature and lower concentrations of sea salt and soil particles. This data set reveals an inversely proportional relationship between the fraction of nitrate in the fine mode and product of the sum of sodium and calcium in equivalent concentrations and the dissociation constant of ammonium nitrate (i.e., (1/([Na+] + 2[Ca2+]) × (1/Ke')) when Pn_fine is significant (> 10%). The seasonal variation observed for sea salt aerosol abundance, with lower values in summer and winter, is possibly linked with the lower marine salinities in these two seasons.

Positive matrix factorization was applied to estimate the relative contributions of local formation and transport to the observed ambient sulfate level through the use of the combined data sets of size-segregated sulfate and select gaseous air pollutants. On average, the regional/super-regional transport of air pollutants was the dominant source at this receptor site, especially on high-sulfate days while local formation processes contributed approximately 30% of the total sulfate. This work provides field-measurement-based evidence important for understanding both local photochemistry and regional/super-regional transport in order to properly simulate sulfate aerosols in air quality models.

Final-revised paper