New particle formation in the Svalbard region 2006–2015
Abstract. Events of new particle formation (NPF) were analyzed in a 10-year data set of hourly particle size distributions recorded on Mt. Zeppelin, Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Three different types of NPF events were identified through objective search algorithms. The first and simplest algorithm utilizes short-term increases in particle concentrations below 25 nm (PCT (percentiles) events). The second one builds on the growth of the sub-50 nm diameter median (DGR (diameter growth) events) and is most closely related to the classical
banana type of event. The third and most complex, multiple-size approach to identifying NPF events builds on a hypothesis suggesting the concurrent production of polymer gel particles at several sizes below ca. 60 nm (MEV (multi-size growth) events).
As a first and general conclusion, we can state that NPF events are a summer phenomenon and not related to Arctic haze, which is a late winter to early spring feature. The occurrence of NPF events appears to be somewhat sensitive to the available data on precipitation. The seasonal distribution of solar flux suggests some photochemical control that may affect marine biological processes generating particle precursors and/or atmospheric photochemical processes that generate condensable vapors from precursor gases. Notably, the seasonal distribution of the biogenic methanesulfonate (MSA) follows that of the solar flux although it peaks before the maxima in NPF occurrence.
A host of ancillary data and findings point to varying and rather complex marine biological source processes. The potential source regions for all types of new particle formation appear to be restricted to the marginal-ice and open-water areas between northeastern Greenland and eastern Svalbard. Depending on conditions, yet to be clarified new particle formation may become visible as short bursts of particles around 20 nm (PCT events), longer events involving condensation growth (DGR events), or extended events with elevated concentrations of particles at several sizes below 100 nm (MEV events). The seasonal distribution of NPF events peaks later than that of MSA and DGR, and in particular than that of MEV events, which reach into late summer and early fall with open, warm, and biologically active waters around Svalbard. Consequently, a simple model to describe the seasonal distribution of the total number of NPF events can be based on solar flux and sea surface temperature, representing environmental conditions for marine biological activity and condensation sink, controlling the balance between new particle nucleation and their condensational growth. Based on the sparse knowledge about the seasonal cycle of gel-forming marine microorganisms and their controlling factors, we hypothesize that the seasonal distribution of DGR and, more so, MEV events reflect the seasonal cycle of the gel-forming phytoplankton.