Articles | Volume 9, issue 19
12 Oct 2009
 | 12 Oct 2009

New particle formation and growth at a remote, sub-tropical coastal location

R. L. Modini, Z. D. Ristovski, G. R. Johnson, C. He, N. Surawski, L. Morawska, T. Suni, and M. Kulmala

Abstract. A month-long intensive measurement campaign was conducted in March/April 2007 at Agnes Water, a remote coastal site just south of the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast of Australia. Particle and ion size distributions were continuously measured during the campaign. Coastal nucleation events were observed in clean, marine air masses coming from the south-east on 65% of the days. The events usually began at ~10:00 local time and lasted for 1–4 h. They were characterised by the appearance of a nucleation mode with a peak diameter of ~10 nm. The freshly nucleated particles grew within 1–4 h up to sizes of 20–50 nm. The events occurred when solar intensity was high (~1000 W m−2) and RH was low (~60%). Interestingly, the events were not related to tide height. The volatile and hygroscopic properties of freshly nucleated particles (17–22.5 nm), simultaneously measured with a volatility-hygroscopicity-tandem differential mobility analyser (VH-TDMA), were used to infer chemical composition. The majority of the volume of these particles was attributed to internally mixed sulphate and organic components. After ruling out coagulation as a source of significant particle growth, we conclude that the condensation of sulphate and/or organic vapours was most likely responsible for driving particle growth at sizes greater than 10 nm during the nucleation events. Although there was a possibility that the precursor vapours responsible for particle formation and growth had continental sources, on the balance of available data we would suggest that the precursors were most likely of marine/coastal origin. Furthermore, a unique and particularly strong nucleation event was observed during northerly wind. The event began early one morning (08:00) and lasted almost the entire day resulting in the production of a large number of ~80 nm particles (average modal concentration during the event was 3200 cm−3). The Great Barrier Reef was the most likely source of precursor vapours responsible for this event.

Final-revised paper