Articles | Volume 17, issue 22
Research article
15 Nov 2017
Research article |  | 15 Nov 2017

Diurnal and day-to-day characteristics of ambient particle mass size distributions from HR-ToF-AMS measurements at an urban site and a suburban site in Hong Kong

Berto Paul Lee, Hao Wang, and Chak Keung Chan

Abstract. Mass-concentration-based particle size distributions measured by a high-resolution aerosol mass spectrometer were systematically analyzed to assess long and short-term temporal characteristics of ambient particle size distributions sampled at a typical urban environment close to emission sources and a suburban coastal site representing a regional and local pollution receptor location in Hong Kong. Measured distributions were bimodal and deconvoluted into submodes, which were analyzed for day-to-day variations and diurnal variations.

Traffic and cooking emissions at the urban site contributed substantially to particle mass in both modes, while notable decreases in mass median diameters were limited to the morning rush hour. Inorganic particle components displayed varying diurnal behavior, including nocturnal nitrate formation and daytime photochemical formation evident in both modes. Suburban particle size distributions exhibited notable seasonal disparities with differing influence of local formation, particularly in spring and summer, and transport which dominated in the fall season leading to notably higher sulfate and organic accumulation-mode particle concentrations. Variations in particle mixing state were evaluated by comparison of interspecies mass median diameter trends at both measurement sites. Internal mixing was prevalent in the accumulation mode in spring at the urban site, while greater frequency of time periods with external mixing of particle populations comprising different fractions of organic constituents was observed in summer. At the suburban site, sulfate and nitrate in the accumulation mode more frequently exhibited differing particle size distributions in all seasons, signifying a greater extent of external mixing.

At the urban site, periods of greater submicron inorganic mass concentrations were more likely to be caused by increases in both Aitken- and accumulation-mode particle mass in summer, while at the suburban receptor location, organic and nitrate Aitken-mode particle mass contributed more regularly to higher total submicron species mass concentrations in most seasons (spring, summer, and winter).

Short summary
The size of atmospheric particles is an important physical property that determines environmental and health effects. We measured the size and chemical composition of particles in two locations in Hong Kong impacted by different predominant sources of particulate air pollutants to characterize how particle size and particle composition vary over different time frames, from changes within a day to long-term changes over weeks, and which processes and sources may have played important roles.
Final-revised paper