Headline: The striking effect of vertical mixing in the planetary boundary layer on new particle formation in the Yangtze River Delta

New particle formation (NPF) induces a sharp increase in ultrafine particle number concentrations and potentially acts as an important source of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). As the densely populated area of China, the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region shows a high frequency of observed NPF events at the ground level, especially in spring. Although recent observational studies suggested a possible connection between NPF at the higher altitudes and ground level, the role played by vertical mixing, particularly in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) is not fully understood. Here we integrate measurements in Nanjing on 15–20 April 2018, and the NPF-explicit Weather Research and Forecast coupled with chemistry (WRF-Chem) model simulations to better understand the governing mechanisms of the NPF and CCN. Our results indicate that newly formed particles at the boundary layer top could be transported downward by vertical mixing as the PBL develops. A numerical sensitivity simulation created by eliminating aerosol vertical mixing suppresses both the downward transport of particles formed at a higher altitude and the dilution of particles at the ground level. The resulting higher Fuchs surface area at the ground level, together with the lack of downward transport, yields a sharp weakening of NPF strength and delayed start of NPF therein. The aerosol vertical mixing, therefore, leads to a more than double increase of surface CN10–40 and a one third decrease of boundary layer top CN10–40. Additionally, the continuous growth of nucleated ultrafine particles at the boundary layer top is strongly steered by the upward transport of condensable gases, with close to half increase of particle number concentrations in Aitken mode and CCN at a supersaturation rate of 0.75%. The findings may bridge the gap in understanding the complex interaction between PBL dynamics and NPF events, reducing the uncertainty in assessing the climate impact of aerosols.

Publication Year
2022
Publication Type
Academic Articles
Citation

Lai, S., Hai, S., Gao, Y., Wang, Y., Sheng, L., Lupascu, A., Ding, A., Nie, W., Qi, X., Huang, X., Chi, X., Zhao, C., Zhao, B., Shrivastava, M., Fast, J. D., Yao, X., & Gao, H. (2022). The striking effect of vertical mixing in the planetary boundary layer on new particle formation in the Yangtze River Delta. The science of the total environment, 829: 154607. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154607.

DOI
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154607
Staff involved
Projects involved
Air Quality Modelling for Policy Advice