Articles | Volume 15, issue 21
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 12445–12464, 2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 12445–12464, 2015

Research article 10 Nov 2015

Research article | 10 Nov 2015

Aerosol size distribution and new particle formation in the western Yangtze River Delta of China: 2 years of measurements at the SORPES station

X. M. Qi1,3, A. J. Ding1,3, W. Nie1,3, T. Petäjä2, V.-M. Kerminen2, E. Herrmann1,a, Y. N. Xie1, L. F. Zheng1,3, H. Manninen2, P. Aalto2, J. N. Sun1,3, Z. N. Xu1,3, X. G. Chi1,3, X. Huang1,3, M. Boy2,3, A. Virkkula1,2,3, X.-Q. Yang1,3, C. B. Fu1,3, and M. Kulmala2 X. M. Qi et al.
  • 1Institute for Climate and Global Change Research & School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, 210023, Nanjing, China
  • 2Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Collaborative Innovation Center of Climate Change, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China
  • anow at: Laboratory for Atmospheric Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland

Abstract. Aerosol particles play important roles in regional air quality and global climate change. In this study, we analyzed 2 years (2011–2013) of measurements of submicron particles (6–800 nm) at a suburban site in the western Yangtze River Delta (YRD) of eastern China. The number concentrations (NCs) of particles in the nucleation, Aitken and accumulation modes were 5300 ± 5500, 8000 ± 4400, 5800 ± 3200 cm−3, respectively. The NCs of total particles are comparable to those at urban/suburban sites in other Chinese megacities, such as Beijing, but about 10 times higher than in the remote western China. Long-range and regional transport largely influenced number concentrations and size distributions of submicron particles. The highest and lowest accumulation-mode particle number concentrations were observed in air masses from the YRD and coastal regions, respectively. Continental air masses from inland brought the highest concentrations of nucleation-mode particles. New particle formation (NPF) events, apparent in 44 % of the effective measurement days, occurred frequently in all the seasons except winter. The frequency of NPF in spring, summer and autumn is much higher than other measurement sites in China. Sulfuric acid was found to be the main driver of NPF events. The particle formation rate was the highest in spring (3.6 ± 2.4 cm−3 s−1), whereas the particle growth rate had the highest values in summer (12.8 ± 4.4 nm h−1). The formation rate was typically high in relatively clean air masses, whereas the growth rate tended to be high in the polluted YRD air masses. The frequency of NPF events and the particle growth rates showed a strong year-to-year difference. In the summer of 2013, associated with a multi-week heat wave and strong photochemical processes, NPF events occurred with larger frequency and higher growth rates compared with the same period in 2012. The difference in the location and strength of the subtropical high pressure system, which influences the air mass transport pathways and solar radiation, seems to be the cause for year-to-year differences. This study reports, up to now, the longest continuous measurement records of submicron particles in eastern China and helps to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the main factors controlling the seasonal and year-to-year variation of the aerosol size distribution and NPF in this region.

Short summary
We report 2 years of measurements of submicron particles at the SORPES station and provide a comprehensive understanding of main factors controlling temporal variation of the aerosol size distribution and NPF in eastern China. The number concentrations of total particles at Nanjing were comparable to other Chinese megacities but the frequency of NPF was much higher. Year-to-year differences of meteorological conditions could significantly influence the seasonal cycle of NPF and growth.
Final-revised paper