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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-92
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-92
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: review article 24 Mar 2020

Submitted as: review article | 24 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Urban Aerosol Size Distributions: A Global Perspective

Tianren Wu1,2 and Brandon E. Boor1,2 Tianren Wu and Brandon E. Boor
  • 1Lyles School of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA
  • 2Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, Center for High Performance Buildings, Purdue University, 177 South Russell Street, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA

Abstract. Urban aerosol measurements are necessary to establish associations between air pollution and human health outcomes and to evaluate the efficacy of air quality legislation and emissions standards. The measurement of urban aerosol particle size distributions (PSDs) is of particular importance as they enable for characterization of size-dependent processes that govern a particle’s transport, transformation, and fate in the urban atmosphere. PSDs also improve our ability to link air pollution to health effects through evaluation of particle deposition in the respiratory system and inhalation toxicity. To provide guidance for the evolution of urban aerosol observations, this paper reviews and critically analyzes the current state-of-knowledge on urban aerosol PSD measurements by synthesizing n = 793 PSD observations made between 1998 to 2017 in n = 125 cities in n = 51 countries around the globe. Significant variations in the shape and magnitude of urban aerosol number and mass PSDs were identified among different geographical regions. In general, number PSDs in Europe (EU), North America, Australia, and New Zealand (NAAN) are dominated by nucleation and Aitken mode particles. PSDs in Central, South, and Southeast Asia (CSSA) and East Asia (EA) are shifted to larger sizes, with a meaningful contribution from the accumulation mode. Urban mass PSDs are typically bi-modal, presenting a dominant peak in the accumulation mode and a secondary peak in the coarse mode. Most PSD observations published in the literature are short-term, with only 14 % providing data for longer than six months. There is a paucity of PSDs measured in Africa (AF), CSSA, Latin America (LA), and West Asia (WA), demonstrating the need for long-term aerosol measurements across wide size ranges in many cities around the globe.

Inter-region variations in PSDs have important implications for population exposure, driving large differences in the urban aerosol inhaled deposited dose rate received in each region of the human respiratory system. Similarly, inter-region variations in the shape of PSDs impact the penetration of urban aerosols through filters in building ventilation systems, which serve as an important interface between the outdoor and indoor atmospheres. Geographical variations in urban aerosol effective densities were also reviewed. Size-resolved urban aerosol effective density functions from 3 to 10 000 nm were established for different geographical regions and intra-city sampling locations in order to accurately translate number PSDs to mass PSDs, with significant variations observed between near-road and urban background sites. The results of this critical review demonstrate that global initiatives are urgently needed to develop infrastructure for routine and long-term monitoring of urban aerosol PSDs spanning the nucleation to coarse modes. Doing so will advance our understanding of spatiotemporal trends in urban PSDs throughout the world and provide a foundation to more reliably elucidate the impact of urban aerosols on atmospheric processes, human health, and climate.

Tianren Wu and Brandon E. Boor

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Tianren Wu and Brandon E. Boor

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Latest update: 30 May 2020
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Short summary
Urban air pollution is a major global environmental health challenge. Establishing associations between exposure to urban aerosols and human health outcomes requires reliable aerosol measurements. Of particular importance are measurements of urban aerosol particle size distributions. This review critically analyzes global trends in urban aerosol particle size distributions in order to provide insights on air pollution in cities and guidance for the future of air quality monitoring networks.
Urban air pollution is a major global environmental health challenge. Establishing associations...
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