New particle formation in the southern Aegean Sea during the Etesians: importance for CCN production and cloud droplet number
Abstract. This study examines how new particle formation (NPF) in the eastern Mediterranean in summer affects CCN (cloud condensation nuclei) concentrations and cloud droplet formation. For this, the concentration and size distribution of submicron aerosol particles, along with the concentration of trace gases and meteorological variables, were studied over the central (Santorini) and southern Aegean Sea (Finokalia, Crete) from 15 to 28 July 2013, a period that includes Etesian events and moderate northern surface winds. Particle nucleation bursts were recorded during the Etesian flow at both stations, with those observed at Santorini reaching up to 1.5 × 104 particles cm−3; the fraction of nucleation-mode particles over Crete was relatively diminished, but a higher number of Aitken-mode particles were observed as a result of aging. Aerosol and photochemical pollutants covaried throughout the measurement period; lower concentrations were observed during the period of Etesian flow (e.g., 43–70 ppbv for ozone and 1.5–5.7 µg m−3 for sulfate) but were substantially enhanced during the period of moderate surface winds (i.e., increase of up to 32 for ozone and 140 % for sulfate). We find that NPF can double CCN number (at 0.1 % supersaturation), but the resulting strong competition for water vapor in cloudy updrafts decreases maximum supersaturation by 14 % and augments the potential droplet number only by 12 %. Therefore, although NPF events may strongly elevate CCN numbers, the relative impacts on cloud droplet number (compared to pre-event levels) is eventually limited by water vapor availability and depends on the prevailing cloud formation dynamics and the aerosol levels associated with the background of the region.