On the sensitivity of particle size to relative humidity for Los Angeles aerosols

Peter H McMurry, Mark R Stolzenburg

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A TDMA system (Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer; Rader D.J. and McMurry P.H. J. Aerosol Sci. 17, 771-787, 1986) was used to measure the sensitivity of particle size to relative humidity for monodisperse Los Angeles aerosols. Measurements were made at Claremont, CA on 13 days between 19 June and 3 September 1987, in conjunction with the Southern California Air Quality Study (SCAQS). The particle sizes that were studied ranged from 0.05 μm to 0.5 μm diameter at ambient relative humidity (typically 45-65%). The data provide clear evidence that these atmospheric aerosols were externally mixed. Monodisperse ambient aerosols were often found to split into nonhygroscopic (no water uptake) and hygroscopic portions when humidified. An average of 30% of the particles in the 0.2-0.5 μm range were nonhygroscopic. However, the proportion of the particles that was nonhygroscopic varied considerably from day to day and was, on occasion, as high as 70-80% of the particles. There was no clear evidence for nonhygroscopic 0.05 μm particles, but the data are not definitive on this point. The data also show that for the hydrophilic aerosol fraction, the larger particles (0.4-0.5 μm) grew more when humidified than did smaller particles (0.05-0.2 μm). As relative humidities were increased from 50% to 90%, particle diameters grew by average factors of 1.46 ±0.02 (for 0.5 μm particles), 1.49 ± 0.08 (0.4 μm), 1.19 ± 0.08 (0.2 μm) and 1.12 ± 0.05 (0.05 μm). Similarly, when particles were dried from 50% RH to 6-10% RH, particle diameters changed by factors ranging from 0.94 ± 0.03 (0.5 μm) to 0.98 ± 0.01 (0.05 μm).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-507
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment (1967)
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989


  • CCN
  • Hygroscopic aerosols
  • activation
  • aerosol water content
  • condensation
  • externally mixed aerosols
  • hydrophobic aerosols


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