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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 23 Apr 2019

Submitted as: research article | 23 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Quantifying aerosol size distributions and their temporal variability in the Southern Great Plains, USA

Peter J. Marinescu1, Ezra J. T. Levin1, Don Collins2, Sonia M. Kreidenweis1, and Susan C. van den Heever1 Peter J. Marinescu et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 80526, USA
  • 2Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Riverside, 92521, USA

Abstract. A quality-controlled, 5-year dataset (2009–2013) of aerosol number size distributions (particles with diameters (Dp) from 7 nm through 14 μm) was developed using observations from a scanning mobility particle sizer, aerodynamic particle sizer, and a condensation particle counter at the Department of Energy's Southern Great Plains (SGP) site. This dataset was used for two purposes. First, typical characteristics of the aerosol size distribution (number, surface area, and volume) were calculated for the SGP site, both for the entire dataset and on a seasonal basis, and size distribution lognormal fit parameters are provided. While the median size distributions generally had similar shapes (4 lognormal modes) in all the seasons, there were some significant differences between seasons. These differences were most significant in the smallest particles (Dp < 30 nm) and largest particles (Dp > 800 nm). Second, power spectral analysis was conducted on this long-term dataset to determine key temporal cycles of total aerosol concentrations, as well as aerosol concentrations in specified size ranges. The strongest cyclic signal was associated with a diurnal cycle in total aerosol number concentrations that was driven by the number concentrations of the smallest particles (Dp < 30 nm). This diurnal cycle in the smallest particles occurred in all seasons, in ~ 50 % of the observations, suggesting a persistence influence of new particle formation events on the number concentrations observed at SGP. This finding contrasts with earlier studies that suggested new particle formation is observed primarily in the springtime at this site. The timing of peak concentrations associated with this diurnal cycle was shifted by several hours depending on the season, which was consistent with seasonal differences in insolation and boundary layer processes. Significant diurnal cycles in number concentrations were also found for particles with Dp between 140 nm and 800 nm, with peak concentrations occurring in the overnight hours, which were primarily associated with both nitrate and organic aerosol cycles. Weaker cyclic signals were observed for longer time scales (days to weeks) and are hypothesized to be related to the time scales of synoptic weather variability. The strongest periodic signals (3.5-5-day and 7-day cycles) for these longer time scales varied depending on the season, with no cyclic signals and the lowest variability in the summer.

Peter J. Marinescu et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Peter J. Marinescu et al.
Peter J. Marinescu et al.
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Short summary
In this study, we used several instruments at a continental, North-American, long-term surface observatory (DOE ARM Southern Great Plains site) to characterize the size distributions of aerosol particles, which are useful for assessing the many impacts of aerosol particles on the Earth system. We also used this long-term dataset to determine key cycles in particle concentrations on the time scales of several hours to weeks and provided explanations and hypotheses related to the cycles observed.
In this study, we used several instruments at a continental, North-American, long-term surface...