02 Jan 2023
02 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Comprehensive simulations of new particle formation events in Beijing with a cluster dynamics-multicomponent sectional model

Chenxi Li1, Yuyang Li2, Xiaoxiao Li2, Runlong Cai3, Yaxin Fan1, Xiaohui Qiao2, Rujing Yin2, Chao Yan4,5, Yishuo Guo5, Yongchun Liu5, Jun Zheng6, Veli-Matti Kerminen3, Markku Kulmala3,5, Huayun Xiao1, and Jingkun Jiang2 Chenxi Li et al.
  • 1School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 200240, Shanghai, China
  • 2State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, 100084 Beijing, China
  • 3Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Joint International Research Laboratory of Atmospheric and Earth System Sciences, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023
  • 5Aerosol and Haze Laboratory, Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Soft Matter Science and Engineering, Beijing University of Chemical Technology, 100029 Beijing, China
  • 6Collaborative Innovation Center of Atmospheric Environment and Equipment Technology, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing, 210044, China

Abstract. New particle formation (NPF) and growth is a major source of atmospheric fine particles. In polluted urban environments, NPF events are frequently observed with characteristics distinct from those in clean environments. Here we simulate NPF events in urban Beijing with a discrete-sectional model that couples cluster dynamics and multicomponent particle growth. In the model, new particles are formed by sulfuric acid-dimethylamine nucleation, while particle growth is driven by particle coagulation and the condensation of sulfuric acid, its clusters, and oxygenated organic molecules (OOMs). A variable simulation domain in the particle size space is applied to isolate newly formed particles from preexisting ones, which allows us to focus on new particle formation and growth rather than the evolution of particles of non-NPF origin. The simulation yields a rich set of information including the time dependent NPF rates, the cluster concentrations, the particle size distributions, and the time- and size-specific particle chemical compositions. These can be compared with the field observations to comprehensively assess the simulation-observation agreement. Sensitivity analysis with the model further quantifies how metrics of NPF events (e.g., particle survival probability) respond to model input variations and serves as a diagnostic tool to pinpoint the key parameter that leads to simulation-observation discrepancies. Seven typical NPF events in urban Beijing were analyzed. We found that with the observed gaseous precursor concentrations and coagulation sink as model inputs, the simulations roughly captured the evolution of the observed particle size distributions; however, the simulated particle growth rate was insufficient to yield the observed particle number concentrations, survival probability, and mode diameter. With the aid of sensitivity analysis, we identified underdetected OOMs as a likely cause for the discrepancy, and the agreement between the simulation and the observation was improved after we modulated particle growth rates in the simulation by adjusting the abundance of OOMs.

Chenxi Li et al.

Status: open (until 13 Feb 2023)

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Chenxi Li et al.


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Short summary
New particle formation and growth in polluted environments are not fully understood despite intensive research. We applied a cluster dynamics-multicomponent sectional model to simulate the new particle formation events observed in Beijing, China. The simulation approximately captures how the events evolve. Further diagnosis shows that the oxygenated organic molecules may have been underdetected and modulating their abundance leads to significantly improved simulation-observation agreement.