Articles | Volume 17, issue 21
Research article
10 Nov 2017
Research article |  | 10 Nov 2017

Estimation of atmospheric particle formation rates through an analytical formula: validation and application in Hyytiälä and Puijo, Finland

Elham Baranizadeh, Tuomo Nieminen, Taina Yli-Juuti, Markku Kulmala, Tuukka Petäjä, Ari Leskinen, Mika Komppula, Ari Laaksonen, and Kari E. J. Lehtinen

Abstract. The formation rates of 3 nm particles were estimated at SMEAR IV, Puijo (Finland), where the continuous measurements extend only down to 7 nm in diameter. We extrapolated the formation rates at 7 nm (J7) down to 3 nm (J3) based on an approximate solution to the aerosol general dynamic equation, assuming a constant condensational growth rate, a power-law size-dependent scavenging rate, and negligible self-coagulation rate for the nucleation mode particles. To evaluate our method, we first applied it to new particle formation (NPF) events in Hyytiälä (Finland), which extend down to 3 nm, and, therefore, J3 and J7 can be determined directly from the measured size distribution evolution. The Hyytiälä results show that the estimated daily mean J3 values slightly overestimate the observed mean J3, but a promising 91 % of the estimated J3 values are within a factor of 2 from the measured ones. However, when considering detailed daily time evolution, the agreement is not as good due to fluctuations in data as well as uncertainties in estimated growth rates, which are required in order to calculate the time lag between formation of 3 and 7 nm particles. At Puijo, the mean J7 for clear NPF days during April 2007–December 2015 was 0.44 cm−3 s−1, while the extrapolated mean J3 was 0.61 cm−3 s−1.

Short summary
Extrapolation of the particle formation rates from one measured larger size (e.g., 7 nm) to smaller sizes (e.g., 3 nm) based on simplified growth-scavenging dynamics works fairly well to estimate mean daily formation rates, but it fails to predict the time evolution of the particle population. This points to the challenges in predicting atmospheric nucleation rates for locations where the particle growth and loss rates are size- and time-dependent.
Final-revised paper