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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-936
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-936
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 21 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 21 Oct 2019

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

Wintertime New Particle Formation and Its Contribution to Cloud Condensation Nuclei in the Northeastern United States

Fangqun Yu1, Gan Luo1, Arshad Nair1, James J. Schwab1, James P. Sherman2, and Yanda Zhang1 Fangqun Yu et al.
  • 1Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, State University of New York, Albany, New York 12203, USA
  • 2Department of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University, NC 28608, USA

Abstract. Atmospheric particles can act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and modify cloud properties and precipitation and thus indirectly impact the hydrological cycle and climate. New particle formation (NPF or nucleation), frequently observed at locations around the globe, is an important source of ultrafine particles and CCN in the atmosphere. In this study, wintertime NPF over the Northeastern United States (NEUS) is simulated with WRF-Chem coupled with a size-resolved (sectional) advanced particle microphysics (APM) model. Model simulated variations of particle number concentrations during a two-month period (November–December 2013) are in agreement with corresponding measurements taken at Pinnacle State Park (PSP), New York and Appalachian State University (APP), North Carolina. We show that even during wintertime, regional nucleation occurs and contributes significantly to ultrafine particle and CCN number concentrations over the NEUS. Due to low biogenic emissions during this period, wintertime regional nucleation is solely controlled by inorganic species and the newly developed ternary ion-mediated nucleation scheme is able to capture the variations of observed particle number concentrations (ranging from ~ 200–20 000 cm−3) at both PSP and APP. Total particle and CCN number concentrations dramatically increase following NPF events and have highest values over the Ohio Valley region, where elevated [SO2] is sustained by power plants. Secondary particles dominate particle number abundance over the NEUS and their fraction increases with altitude from > ~ 85 % near surface to > ~ 95 % in the upper troposphere. The secondary fraction of CCN also increases with altitude, from 20–50 % in the lower boundary layer to 50–60 % in the middle troposphere to 70–85 % in the upper troposphere. This significant contribution of wintertime nucleation to aerosols, especially those that can act as CCN, is important considering the changing paradigm of wintertime precipitation over the NEUS.

Fangqun Yu et al.
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Short summary
Particle number concentration (PNC) is a key parameter important for the health and climate impacts of atmospheric aerosols. We show that even during wintertime, regional nucleation occurs and contributes significantly to number concentrations of ultrafine particles and could condensation nuclei. Due to low biogenic emissions, wintertime regional nucleation is solely controlled by inorganic species and the ternary ion-mediated nucleation is able to capture the observed variations of PNC.
Particle number concentration (PNC) is a key parameter important for the health and climate...
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