The effect of meteorological conditions and atmospheric composition in the occurrence and development of new particle formation (NPF) events in Europe

Dimitrios Bousiotis, James Brean, Francis D. Pope, Manuel Dall'osto, Xavier Querol, Andrés Alastuey, Noemi Perez, Tuukka Petäjä, Andreas Massling, Jacob Klenø Nøjgaard, Claus Nordstrøm, Giorgos Kouvarakis, Stergios Vratolis, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis, Jarkko V. Niemi, Harri Portin, Alfred Wiedensohler, Kay Weinhold, Maik Merkel, Thomas TuchRoy M. Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Although new particle formation (NPF) events have been studied extensively for some decades, the mechanisms that drive their occurrence and development are yet to be fully elucidated. Laboratory studies have done much to elucidate the molecular processes involved in nucleation, but this knowledge has yet to be conclusively linked to NPF events in the atmosphere. There is great difficulty in successful application of the results from laboratory studies to real atmospheric conditions due to the diversity of atmospheric conditions and observations found, as NPF events occur almost everywhere in the world without always following a clearly defined trend of frequency, seasonality, atmospheric conditions, or event development.

The present study seeks common features in nucleation events by applying a binned linear regression over an extensive dataset from 16 sites of various types (combined dataset of 85 years from rural and urban backgrounds as well as roadside sites) in Europe. At most sites, a clear positive relation with the frequency of NPF events is found between the solar radiation intensity (up to R2=0.98), temperature (up to R2=0.98), and atmospheric pressure (up to R2=0.97), while relative humidity (RH) presents a negative relation (up to R2=0.95) with NPF event frequency, though exceptions were found among the sites for all the variables studied. Wind speed presents a less consistent relationship, which appears to be heavily affected by local conditions. While some meteorological variables (such as the solar radiation intensity and RH) appear to have a crucial effect on the occurrence and characteristics of NPF events, especially at rural sites, it appears that their role becomes less marked at higher average values.

The analysis of chemical composition data presents interesting results. Concentrations of almost all chemical compounds studied (apart from O3) and the condensation sink (CS) have a negative relationship with NPF event frequency, though areas with higher average concentrations of SO2 had higher NPF event frequency. Particulate organic carbon (OC), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate-phase sulfate consistently had a positive relation with the growth rate of the newly formed particles. As with some meteorological variables, it appears that at increased concentrations of pollutants or the CS, their influence upon NPF frequency is reduced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3345-3370
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support. This research has been supported by the Natural

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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