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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 18, issue 1 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 311-326, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 11 Jan 2018

Research article | 11 Jan 2018

Vertically resolved concentration and liquid water content of atmospheric nanoparticles at the US DOE Southern Great Plains site

Haihan Chen1, Anna L. Hodshire2, John Ortega3, James Greenberg3, Peter H. McMurry4, Annmarie G. Carlton1, Jeffrey R. Pierce2, Dave R. Hanson5, and James N. Smith1 Haihan Chen et al.
  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, 92697, USA
  • 2Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 80523, USA
  • 3National Center for Atmospheric Research, Atmospheric Chemistry Observations & Modeling Laboratory, Boulder, 80307, USA
  • 4Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Minneapolis, 55455, USA
  • 5Department of Chemistry, Augsburg University, Minneapolis, 55454, USA

Abstract. Most prior field studies of new particle formation (NPF) have been performed at or near ground level, leaving many unanswered questions regarding the vertical extent of NPF. To address this, we measured concentrations of 11–16nm diameter particles from ground level to 1000m during the 2013 New Particle Formation Study at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains site in Lamont, Oklahoma. The measurements were performed using a tethered balloon carrying two condensation particle counters that were configured for two different particle cut-off diameters. These observations were compared to data from three scanning mobility particle sizers at the ground level. We observed that 11–16nm diameter particles were generated at the top region of the boundary layer, and were then rapidly mixed throughout the boundary layer. We also estimate liquid water content of nanoparticles using ground-based measurements of particle hygroscopicity obtained with a Humidified Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer and vertically resolved relative humidity (RH) and temperature measured with a Raman lidar. Our analyses of these observations lead to the following conclusions regarding nanoparticles formed during NPF events at this site: (1) ground-based observations may not always accurately represent the timing, distribution, and meteorological conditions associated with the onset of NPF; (2) nanoparticles are highly hygroscopic and typically contain up to 50% water by volume, and during conditions of high RH combined with high particle hygroscopicity, particles can be up to 95% water by volume; (3) increased liquid water content of nanoparticles at high RH greatly enhances the partitioning of water-soluble species like organic acids into ambient nanoparticles.

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Much of what we know about atmospheric new particle formation (NPF) is based on ground-level measurements. We used tethered balloon measurements and remote sensing to study the location in the boundary layer in which NPF events are initiated, the degree to which the boundary layer is well-mixed during NPF, and the potential role that water may play in aerosol particle chemical evolution. This information will improve the representativeness of process level models and laboratory experiments.
Much of what we know about atmospheric new particle formation (NPF) is based on ground-level...