18 Jan 2022
18 Jan 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

A Sulfuric Acid Nucleation Potential Model for the Atmosphere

Jack Johnson1,2 and Coty Jen1,2 Jack Johnson and Coty Jen
  • 1Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA
  • 2Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA

Abstract. Observations over the last decade have demonstrated that the atmosphere contains potentially hundreds of compounds that can react with sulfuric acid to nucleate stable aerosol particles. Consequently, modeling atmospheric nucleation requires detailed knowledge of nucleation reaction kinetics and spatially and temporally resolved measurements of numerous precursor compounds. This study introduces the Nucleation Potential Model (NPM), a novel nucleation model that dramatically simplifies the diverse reactions between sulfuric acid and any combination of precursor gases. NPM predicts 1-nm nucleation rates are dependent on only two measurable gas concentrations, regardless of whether all precursor gases are known. NPM describes sulfuric acid nucleating with a parameterized base compound at an effective base concentration, [Beff]. [Beff] captures the ability of a compound or mixture to form stable clusters with sulfuric acid and is estimated from measured 1-nm particle concentrations. NPM is applied to experimental and field observations of sulfuric acid nucleation to demonstrate how [Beff] varies for different stabilizing compounds, mixtures, and sampling locations. Analysis of previous field observations shows distinct differences in [Beff] between locations that follow the emission sources and stabilizing compound concentrations for that region. Overall, NPM allows researchers to easily model nucleation across diverse environments and estimate the concentration of non-sulfuric acid precursors using a condensation particle counter.

Jack Johnson and Coty Jen

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-35', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Jan 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-35', Christina Williamson, 03 Feb 2022
  • AC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-35', Jack Johnson, 13 Apr 2022

Jack Johnson and Coty Jen

Jack Johnson and Coty Jen


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Latest update: 26 May 2022
Short summary
Sulfuric acid nucleation forms particles in Earth's atmosphere that influence cloud formation and climate. This study introduces a simple nucleation model, known as the Nucleation Potential Model (NPM), to predict nucleation rates by simplifying the diverse reactions between sulfuric acid and other precursor gases. Results show that the NPM accurately estimates precursor gas concentrations in both laboratory settings and field observations and can model nucleation across diverse environments.