Production, growth and properties of ultrafine atmospheric aerosol particles in an urban environment
1Institute of Chemistry, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
2Department of Meteorology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary
3Department of Physical Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
Abstract. Number concentrations of atmospheric aerosol particles were measured by a flow-switching type differential mobility particle sizer in an electrical mobility diameter range of 6–1000 nm in 30 channels near central Budapest with a time resolution of 10 min continuously from 3 November 2008 to 2 November 2009. Daily median number concentrations of particles varied from 3.8 × 103 to 29 ×103 cm−3 with a yearly median of 11.8 × 103 cm−3. Contribution of ultrafine particles to the total particle number ranged from 58 to 92% with a mean ratio and standard deviation of (79 ± 6)%. Typical diurnal variation of the particle number concentration was related to the major emission patterns in cities, new particle formation, sinks of particles and meteorology. Shapes of the monthly mean number size distributions were similar to each other. Overall mean for the number median mobility diameter of the Aitken and accumulation modes were 26 and 93 nm, respectively, which are substantially smaller than for rural or background environments. The Aitken and accumulation modes contributed similarly to the total particle number concentrations at the actual measurement location. New particle formation and growth unambiguously occurred on 83 days, which represent 27% of all relevant days. Hence, new particle formation and growth are not rare phenomena in Budapest. Their frequency showed an apparent seasonal variation with a minimum of 7.3% in winter and a maximum of 44% in spring. New particle formation events were linked to increased gas-phase H2SO4 concentrations. In the studied area, new particle formation is mainly affected by condensation sink and solar radiation. The formation process seems to be not sensitive to SO2, which was present in a yearly median concentration of 6.7 μg m−3. This suggests that the precursor gas was always available in excess. Formation rate of particles with a diameter of 6 nm varied between 1.65 and 12.5 cm−3 s−1 with a mean and standard deviation of (4.2 ± 2.5) cm−3 s−1. Seasonal dependency for the formation rate could not be identified. Growth curves of nucleated particles were usually superimposed on the characteristic diurnal pattern of road traffic direct emissions. The growth rate of the nucleation mode with a median diameter of 6 nm varied from 2.0 to 13.3 nm h−1 with a mean and standard deviation of (7.7 ± 2.4) nm h−1. There was an indicative tendency for larger growth rates in summer and for smaller values in winter. New particle formation events increased the total number concentration by a mean factor and standard deviation of 2.3 ± 1.1 relative to the concentration that occurred immediately before the event. Several indirect evidences suggest that the new particle formation events occurred at least over the whole city, and were of regional type. The results and conclusions presented are the first information of this kind for the region over one-year long time period.