On the contribution of organics to the North East Atlantic aerosol number concentration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Jakub Bialek
  • Manuel Dall'Osto
  • Ciaran Monahan
  • David Beddows
  • Colin O'Dowd

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • National University of Ireland Galway
  • Spanish Research Council (IDÆA-CSIC)


k-means statistical-cluster analysis of submicron aerosol size distributions is combined with coincident humidity tandem differential mobility analyser data, leading to five unique aerosol categories for hygroscopic growth factors (HGFs): low sea-salt background marine, high sea-salt background marine, coastal nucleation, open ocean nucleation and anthropogenically influenced scenarios. When considering only marine conditions, and generic aerosol species associated with this environment (e.g. non-sea-salt sulfate, sea-salt, partly soluble organic matter and water insoluble organic matter), the two-year annual average contribution to aerosol number concentration from the different generic species was made up as follows: 46% (30-54%) of partially modified ammonium sulfate particles; 23% (11-40%) of partially modified sea-salt; and the remaining 31% (25-35%) contribution attributed to two distinct organic species as evidenced by different, but low, HGFs. The analysis reveals that on annual timescales, ∼30% of the submicron marine aerosol number concentration is sourced from predominantly organic aerosol while 60% of the anthropogenic aerosol number is predominantly organic. Coastal nucleation events show the highest contribution of the lowest HGF mode (1.19), although this contribution is more likely to be influenced by inorganic iodine oxides. While organic mass internally mixed with inorganic salts will lower the activation potential of these mixed aerosol types, thereby potentially reducing the concentration of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), pure organic water soluble particles are still likely to be activated into cloud droplets, thereby increasing the concentration of CCN. A combination of dynamics and aerosol concentrations will determine which effect will prevail under given conditions.


Original languageEnglish
Article number044013
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • aerosol hygroscopicity, cloud condensation nuclei, marine aerosol, organic aerosol