Wintertime new particle formation and its contribution to cloud condensation nuclei in the Northeastern United States

Yu, Fangqun; Luo, Gan; Nair, Arshad Arjunan; Schwab, James J.; Sherman, James P.; Zhang, Yanda

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 in particle number concentrations during a 2-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. The model shows that, 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 in observed particle number concentrations (ranging from inline-formula∼200 to 20 000 cminline-formula−3) at both PSP and APP. Total particle and CCN number concentrations dramatically increase following NPF events and have the highest values over the Ohio Valley region, where elevated [inline-formulaSO2] is sustained by power plants. Secondary particles dominate particle number abundance over the NEUS, and their fraction increases with altitude from inline-formula85 % near the surface to inline-formula95 % 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.

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Yu, Fangqun / Luo, Gan / Nair, Arshad Arjunan / et al: Wintertime new particle formation and its contribution to cloud condensation nuclei in the Northeastern United States. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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