Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
Research article
02 May 2016
Research article |  | 02 May 2016

Impacts of organic aerosols and its oxidation level on CCN activity from measurement at a suburban site in China

Fang Zhang, Zhanqing Li, Yanan Li, Yele Sun, Zhenzhu Wang, Ping Li, Li Sun, Pucai Wang, Maureen Cribb, Chuanfeng Zhao, Tianyi Fan, Xin Yang, and Qingqing Wang

Abstract. This study is concerned with the impacts of organic aerosols on cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity based on field measurements made at a suburban site in Northern China. The sensitivity of the estimated CCN number concentration (NCCN) to both volume fraction of organic material (xorg) and aerosol oxidation level (using f44, the fraction of mz 44 in aerosol organic material) are examined. A strong dependence of CCN number concentration (NCCN) on the xorg and f44 was noted. The sensitivity of NCCN to volume fraction of organics increased with increasing xorg. The impacts of the aerosol particles oxidization or aging level on estimating NCCN were also very significant. When the particles were mostly composed of organics (xorg > 60 %), the NCCN at the supersaturation of 0.075 and 0.13 % was underestimated by 46 and 44 %, respectively, if aerosol particles were freshly emitted with primary organics (f44 < 11 %); the underestimation decreased to 32 and 23 % at the corresponding supersaturations, however, if the particles were with more hygroscopic secondary organics (f44 > 15 %). The NCCN at the supersaturation of 0.76 % was underestimated by 11 and 4 %, respectively, at f44 < 11 and f44 > 15 %. However, for the particles composed of low organics (e.g., xorg < 40 %), the effect caused by the f44 was quite insignificant both at high and low supersaturations. This is because the overall hygroscopicity of the particles is dominated by inorganics such as sulfate and nitrate, which are more hygroscopic than organic compounds. Our results indicated that it would decrease the uncertainties in estimating NCCN and lead to a more accurate estimation of NCCN to increase the proportion of secondary organics, especially when the composition of the aerosols is dominated by organics. The applicability of the CCN activation spectrum obtained at Xinzhou to the Xianghe site, about 400 km to the northeast of Xinzhou, was investigated, with the aim of further examining the sensitivity of NCCN to aerosol type. Overall, the mean CCN efficiency spectrum derived from Xinzhou performs well at Xianghe when the supersaturation levels are > 0.2 % (overestimation of 2–4 %). However, NCCN was overestimated by  ∼  20 % at supersaturation levels of < 0.1 %. This suggests that the overestimation is mainly due to the smaller proportion of aged and oxidized organic aerosols present at Xianghe compared to Xinzhou.

Final-revised paper