1School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
2Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
3Dept. of Chemistry, University of York, Heslington, York, UK
*now at: Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
**now at: Laboratory for Atmospheric Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen, Switzerland
Abstract. Measurements are presented from a sampling location 50 km downwind of Greater London, UK, to investigate the timescales required for the atmospheric transformations of aerosol in urban emissions plumes in the context of photochemical age based on the benzene to toluene ratio. It is shown that particles at or around 100 nm in diameter exhibit the greatest systematic variability in chemical properties, and thus hygroscopic properties, on a timescale of 1–2 days. The smaller Aitken mode and larger accumulation mode particles exhibit less variability on these timescales, which we propose is as a result of their different residence times in the atmosphere. The larger accumulation particles have been in the atmosphere longer than the 100 nm particles and their chemistry and hygroscopic properties have been integrated over several days and potentially over several source regions. In contrast, the smaller Aitken mode particles show little systematic variability with photochemical age because their atmospheric lifetimes are short, thus chemical changes and hence changes in water affinity have not had time to occur. Increases in the particle diameter of up to 40% are observed at 90% relative humidity in the accumulation mode from the uptake of water as the particles become increasingly soluble in nature.