Vertical distribution of sub-micron aerosol chemical composition from North-Western Europe and the North-East Atlantic
Abstract. A synthesis of UK based airborne in-situ measurements of aerosol properties representing air masses from North-West Europe and the North-East Atlantic is presented. The major focus of the study is the vertical distribution of sub-micron aerosol chemical composition. Vertical profiles are derived from a Quadrupole Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (Q-AMS). Background sub-micron aerosol vertical profiles are identified and are primarily composed of organic matter and sulphate aerosol. Such background conditions occurred predominantly during periods associated with long-range air mass transport across the Atlantic. These instances may serve as useful model input of aerosol to Western Europe. Increased mass concentration episodes are coincident with European outflow and periods of stagnant/recirculating air masses. Such periods are characterised by significantly enhanced concentrations of nitrate aerosol relative to those of organic matter and sulphate. Periods of enhanced ground level PM2.5 loadings are coincident with instances of high nitrate mass fractions measured on-board the aircraft, indicating that nitrate is a significant contributor to regional pollution episodes. The vertical structure of the sulphate and organic aerosol profiles were shown to be primarily driven by large-scale dynamical processes. The vertical distribution of nitrate is likely determined by both dynamic and thermodynamic processes, with chemical partitioning of gas phase precursors to the particle phase occurring at lower temperatures at the top of the boundary layer. Such effects have profound implications for the aerosol's lifetime and subsequent impacts, highlighting the requirement for accurate representation of the aerosol vertical distribution.