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)%. Daily average number concentrations in various size fractions and contribution of ultrafine particles to the total particle number showed no seasonal dependency. 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. Median diameters of the Aitken and accumulation modes were shifted to larger values before nucleation started and over the growth process, which can be related to the presence of aged aerosol under the conditions that favour nucleation and growth. Particle concentrations were usually increased substantially after nucleations. Overall mean and standard deviation of the nucleation mode number concentrations were (10.4±2.8)×103 cm−3. Mean ratio and standard deviation of the nucleation mode number concentration to the total particle number concentration that was averaged for two hours just before the formation was detected was 2.3±1.1. Nucleation unambiguously occurred on 83 days, which represent 27% of all relevant days. Its frequency showed a remarkable seasonal variation with a minimum of 7.3% in winter and a maximum of 44% in spring. 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. Several indirect evidences suggest that the nucleation events occurred at least over the whole city, and were of regional type.