Observations of relative humidity effects on aerosol light scattering in the Yangtze River Delta of China
Abstract. Scattering of solar radiation by aerosol particles is highly dependent on relative humidity (RH) as hygroscopic particles take up water with increasing RH. To achieve a better understanding of the effect of aerosol hygroscopic growth on light scattering properties and radiative forcing, the aerosol scattering coefficients at RH in the range of 40 to ~ 90 % were measured using a humidified nephelometer system in the Yangtze River Delta of China in March 2013. In addition, the aerosol size distribution and chemical composition were measured. During the observation period, the mean and standard deviation (SD) of enhancement factors at RH = 85 % for the scattering coefficient (f(85 %)), backscattering coefficient (fb(85 %)), and hemispheric backscatter fraction (fβ(85 %)) were 1.58 ± 0.12, 1.25 ± 0.07, and 0.79 ± 0.04, respectively, i.e., aerosol scattering coefficient and backscattering coefficient increased by 58 and 25 % as the RH increased from 40 to 85 %. Concurrently, the aerosol hemispheric backscatter fraction decreased by 21 %. The relative amount of organic matter (OM) or inorganics in PM1 was found to be a main factor determining the magnitude of f(RH). The highest values of f(RH) corresponded to the aerosols with a small fraction of OM, and vice versa. The relative amount of NO3− in fine particles was strongly correlated with f(85 %), which suggests that NO3− played a vital role in aerosol hygroscopic growth during this study. The mass fraction of nitrate also had a close relationship to the curvature of the humidograms; higher mass fractions of nitrate were associated with humidograms that had the least curvature. Aerosol hygroscopic growth caused a 47 % increase in the calculated aerosol direct radiative forcing at 85 % RH, compared to the forcing at 40 % RH.