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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-716
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-716
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 26 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 26 Sep 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Mutual promotion effect between aerosol particle liquid water and nitrate formation lead to severe nitrate-dominated particulate matter pollution and low visibility

Yu Wang1,2,*, Ying Chen3,*, Zhijun Wu1,4,5, Dongjie Shang1, Yuxuan Bian6, Zhuofei Du1,a, Sebastian H. Schmitt4,7,b, Rong Su1,c, Georgios I. Gkatzelis4,7,d,e, Patrick Schlag4,7,f, Thorsten Hohaus4,7, Aristeidis Voliotis2, Keding Lu1,4,5, Limin Zeng1,4, Chunsheng Zhao8, Rami Alfarra2,9, Gordon McFiggans2, Alfred Wiedensohler10, Astrid Kiendler-Scharr4,7, Yuanhang Zhang1,4,5, and Min Hu1,4,5 Yu Wang et al.
  • 1State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 2Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
  • 3Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK
  • 4International Joint Laboratory for Regional Pollution Control, 52425 Jülich, Germany, and Beijing 100871, China
  • 5Collaborative Innovation Center of Atmospheric Environment and Equipment Technology, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
  • 6State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing, 100081, China
  • 7Institute for Energy and Climate Research, IEK-8: Troposphere, Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 8Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 9National Centre for Atmospheric Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
  • 10Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • anow at: Center for Urban Transport Emission Research & State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Urban Ambient Air Particulate Matter Pollution Prevention and Control, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nankai University, Tianjin, 300071, China
  • bnow at: TSI GmbH, 52068 Aachen, Germany
  • cnow at: Guangdong Science and Technology Monitoring and Research Center, Guangzhou 510033, China
  • dnow at: NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado 80305, United States
  • enow at: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, Colorado 80309, United States
  • fnow at: Shimadzu Deutschland GmbH, 47269 Duisburg, Germany

Abstract. As has been the case in North America and Western Europe, the SO2 emissions substantially reduced in North China Plain (NCP) in recent years. A dichotomy of reductions in SO2 and NOx concentrations result in the frequent occurrences of nitrate (pNO3)-dominated particulate matter pollution over NCP. In this study, we observed a polluted episode with the nitrate mass fraction in non-refractory PM1 (NR-PM1) up to 44 % during wintertime in Beijing. Based on this typical pNO3-dominated haze event, the linkage between aerosol water uptake and pNO3 formation, further impacting on visibility degradation, have been investigated based on field observations and theoretical calculations. During haze development, as ambient relative humidity (RH) increased from ~ 10 % up to 70 %, the aerosol particle liquid water increased from ~ 1 μg/m3 at the beginning to ~ 75 μg/m3 at the fully-developed haze period. Without considering the water uptake, the particle surface area and the volume concentrations increased by a factor of 4.1 and 4.8, respectively, during the development of haze event. Taking water uptake into account, the wet particle surface area and volume concentrations enhanced by a factor of 4.7 and 5.8, respectively. As a consequence, the hygroscopic growth of particles facilitated the condensational loss of dinitrogen pentoxide (N2O5) and nitric acid (HNO3) to particles contributing pNO3. From the beginning to the fully-developed haze, the condensational loss of N2O5 increased by a factor of 20 when only considering aerosol surface area and volume of dry particles, while increasing by a factor of 25 considering extra surface area and volume due to water uptake. Similarly, the condensational loss of HNO3 increased by a factor of 2.7~2.9 and 3.1~3.5 for dry and wet aerosol surface area and volume from the beginning to the fully-developed haze period. Above results demonstrated that the pNO3 formation is further enhanced by aerosol water uptake with elevated ambient RH during haze development, in turn, facilitating the aerosol taking up water due to the hygroscopicity of nitrate salt. Such mutual promotion effect between aerosol particle liquid water and nitrate formation can rapidly degrade air quality and halve visibility within one day. Reduction of nitrogen-containing gaseous precursors, e.g., by control of traffic emissions, is essential in mitigating severe haze events in NCP.

Yu Wang et al.
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Short summary
Severe haze events, with high particulate nitrate (pNO3) burden, frequently prevail in Beijing. In this study, we demonstrate a mutual promotion effect between aerosol water uptake and pNO3 formation backed up by theoretical calculations and field observations throughout a typical pNO3-dominated haze event in wintertime of Beijing. This self-amplified mutual promotion effect between aerosol water content and particulate nitrate can rapidly deteriorate air quality and degrade visibility.
Severe haze events, with high particulate nitrate (pNO3) burden, frequently prevail in...
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