1Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, T.P. 290, Ispra (VA) 21020, Italy
2British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, UK
3Institute of Earth Science "Jaume Almera", CSIC, Solé i Sabarís, S/N, 08028, Barcelona, Spain
4University of Birmingham, Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
5The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, TU418, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong
6Politecnico di Milano, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, 32-20133 Milan, Italy
7ARPA-Lombardia, Viale Francesco Restelli, 3/1, 20124 Milan, Italy
*now at: University of Huelva – Iza ˜na Atmospheric Observatory (INM-CSIC), La Marina, 20, 6a planta, 38071, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Abstract. A physicochemical characterization of the urban fine aerosol (aerosol number size distribution, chemical composition and mass concentrations) in Milan, Barcelona and London is presented in this article. The objective is to obtain a comprehensive picture on the involvement of the microphysical processes of the aerosol dynamic in the: 1) regular evolution of the urban aerosol (daily, weekly and seasonal basis) and in the day-to-day variations (from clean-air to pollution-events), and 2) link between "aerosol chemistry and mass concentrations" with the "number size distribution".
The mass concentrations of the fine PM2.5 aerosol exhibit a high correlation with the number concentration of particles >100 nm (which only accounts for <20% of the total number concentration N of fine aerosols) and do not correlate with the number of particles <100 nm ("ultrafine particles", which accounts for >80% of fine particles). Organic matter (OM) and black-carbon (BC) are the only aerosol components showing a significant correlation with ultrafine particles (attributed to vehicles emissions), whereas ammonium-nitrate, ammonium-sulphate and also OM and BC correlate with N>100(nm) (attributed to gas-to-particle transformation mechanisms and some primary emissions). Time series of the aerosol DpN diameter (dN/dlogD mode), mass PM2.5 concentrations and number N>100(nm) concentrations, exhibit correlated day-to-day variations which point to a significant involvement of condensation of semi-volatile compounds during urban pollution events. This agrees with the fact that ammonium-nitrate is the component exhibiting the highest increases from mid-to-high pollution episodes, when the highest DpN increases are observed. The results indicates that "fine PM2.5 particles urban pollution events" tend to occur when condensation processes have made particles grow enough to produce significant concentrations of N>100(nm). In contrast, because the low contribution of ultrafine particles to the fine aerosol mass concentrations, high "ultrafine particles N<100(nm) events" frequently occurs under low PM2.5 conditions. The data of this study point that vehicles emissions are strongly involved in this ultrafine particles aerosol pollution (for example, the "morning-rush-hours to nocturnal-background" concentrations ratio is 1.5–2.5 for "particles 10–100 nm" and <1.5 for both "particle >100 nm and PM2.5").