Characterization of positive air ions in boreal forest air at the Hyytiälä SMEAR station
1Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, 18 Ülikooli St., 50090 Tartu, Estonia
2Department of Physical Sciences, Division of Atmospheric Sciences P.O. Box 64, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
3Tampere University of Technology, Institute of Physics, P.O. Box 692, 33101, Tampere, Finland
Abstract. The behavior of the concentration of positive small (or cluster) air ions and naturally charged nanometer aerosol particles (aerosol ions) has been studied on the basis of measurements carried out in a boreal forest at the Hyytiälä SMEAR station, Finland, during the BIOFOR III campaign in spring 1999. Statistical characteristics of the concentrations of cluster ions, two classes of aerosol ions of the sizes of 2.5–8 nm and 8–ca. 20 nm and the quantities that determine the balance of small ions in the atmosphere have been given for the nucleation event days and non-event days. The dependence of small ion concentration on the ion loss (sink) due to aerosol particles was investigated applying a model of bipolar diffusion charging of particles by small ions. The small ion concentration and the ion sink were closely correlated (correlation coefficient –87%) when the fog events and the hours of high relative humidity (above 95%), as well as nocturnal calms and weak wind (wind speed <0.6 m s−1) had been excluded. However, an extra ion loss term presumably due to small ion deposition on coniferous forest with a magnitude equal to the average ion loss to pre-existing particles is needed to explain the observations. Also the hygroscopic growth correction of measured aerosol particle size distributions was found to be necessary for proper estimation of the ion sink. In the case of nucleation burst events, variations in the concentration of small positive ions were in accordance with the changes caused by the ion sink due to aerosols; no clear indication of positive ion depletion by ion-induced nucleation was found. The estimated average ionization rate of the air at the Hyytiälä station in early spring, when the ground was partly covered with snow, was about 6 ion pairs cm−3 s−1. The study of the charging state of nanometer aerosol particles (2.5–8 nm) revealed a strong correlation (correlation coefficient 88%) between the concentrations of particles and positively charged particles (positive air ions) during nucleation bursts. The estimated charged fraction of particles, which varied from 3% to 6% considering various nucleation event days, confirms that these particles are almost quasi-steady state charged. Also the particles and air ions in the size range of 8–ca. 20 nm showed a good qualitative consistency; the correlation coefficient was 92%.