1School of Physics & Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
2Department of Chemistry, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
3Istituto di Scienze dell'Atmosfera e del Clima Via Gobetti 101, 40129 Bologna, Italy
4Aerodyne Inc., Boston, USA
5Department of Physics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Abstract. As part of the EUCAARI Intensive Observing Period, a 4-week campaign to measure aerosol physical, chemical and optical properties, atmospheric structure, and cloud microphysics was conducted from mid-May to mid-June, 2008 at the Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station, located at the interface of Western Europe and the N. E. Atlantic and centered on the west Irish coastline. During the campaign, continental air masses comprising both young and aged continental plumes were encountered, along with polar, Arctic and tropical air masses. Polluted-continental aerosol concentrations were of the order of 3000 cm−3, while background marine air aerosol concentrations were between 400–600 cm−3. The highest marine air concentrations occurred in polar air masses in which a 15 nm nucleation mode, with concentration of 1100 cm−3, was observed and attributed to open ocean particle formation. Continental air submicron chemical composition (excluding refractory sea salt) was dominated by organic matter, closely followed by sulphate mass. Although the concentrations and size distribution spectral shape were almost identical for the young and aged continental cases, hygroscopic growth factors (GF) and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) to total condensation nuclei (CN) concentration ratios were significantly less in the younger pollution plume, indicating a more oxidized organic component to the aged continental plume. The difference in chemical composition and hygroscopic growth factor appear to result in a 40–50% impact on aerosol scattering coefficients and Aerosol Optical Depth, despite almost identical aerosol microphysical properties in both cases, with the higher values been recorded for the more aged case. For the CCN/CN ratio, the highest ratios were seen in the more age plume. In marine air, sulphate mass dominated the sub-micron component, followed by water soluble organic carbon, which, in turn, was dominated by methanesulphonic acid (MSA). Sulphate concentrations were highest in marine tropical air – even higher than in continental air. MSA was present at twice the concentrations of previously-reported concentrations at the same location and the same season. Both continental and marine air exhibited aerosol GFs significantly less than ammonium sulphate aerosol pointing to a significant organic contribution to all air mass aerosol properties.