Measurements of new particle formation and ultrafine particle growth rates at a clean continental site

R. J. Weber, J. J. Marti, P. H. McMurry, F. L. Eisele, D. J. Tanner, A. Jefferson

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Simultaneous measurements of aerosol particles and their expected gas phase precursors were made at Idaho Hill, Colorado, a remote continental site. This study used apparatus and techniques similar to those employed in an earlier study at the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii [Weber et al., 1995]. New particle formation, identified by the presence of ultrafine particles (nominally 3 to 4 nm diameter), was commonly observed in downslope (westerly) air and was correlated with high sulfuric acid (H2SO4) concentrations, low relative humidity and low particle surface area concentrations. The data point to H2SO4 as a principle nucleation precursor species with typical daytime concentrations between 106 and 107 molecules cm-3. Particle production was observed at H2SO4 concentrations that are well below predicted values for binary nucleation of H2O and H2SO4, suggesting that another species participated. Particle growth rates were estimated from the data with two independent approaches and in both cases were ∼5 to 10 times higher than can be explained by condensation of H2SO4 and its associated water. This suggests that species in addition to H2SO4 were also making large contributions to ultrafine particle growth. Finally, calculated steady-state H2SO4 concentrations were found to be in good agreement with measured values if the mass accommodation coefficient for H2SO4 on aerosol surfaces was assumed equal to ∼1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4375-4385
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 27 1997


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