Articles | Volume 32, issue 7
Ann. Geophys., 32, 817–830, 2014
Ann. Geophys., 32, 817–830, 2014

Regular paper 22 Jul 2014

Regular paper | 22 Jul 2014

The formation and growth of ultrafine particles in two contrasting environments: a case study

Sobhan Kumar Kompalli1, S. Suresh Babu1, K. Krishna Moorthy*,1, Mukunda M Gogoi1, Vijayakumar S Nair1, and Jai Prakash Chaubey1 Sobhan Kumar Kompalli et al.
  • 1Space Physics Laboratory, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, 695 022, India
  • *currently at: ISRO Headquarters, Bangalore, 560 231, India

Abstract. Formation of ultrafine particles and their subsequent growth have been examined during new particle formation (NPF) events in two contrasting environments under varying ambient conditions, one for a tropical semi-urban coastal station, Trivandrum, and the other for a high-altitude free-tropospheric Himalayan location, Hanle. At Trivandrum, NPF bursts took place in the late evening/night hours, whereas at Hanle the burst was a daytime event. During the nucleation period, the total number concentration reached levels as high as ~ 15 900 cm−3 at Trivandrum, whereas at Hanle, the total number concentration was ~ 2700 cm−3, indicating the abundant availability of precursors at Trivandrum and the pristine nature of Hanle. A sharp decrease was associated with NPF for the geometric mean diameter of the size distribution, and a large increase in the concentration of the particles in the nucleation regime (Dp < 25 nm). Once formed, these (secondary) aerosols grew from nucleation (diameter Dp < 25 nm) to Aitken (25 ≤ Dp ≤ 100 nm) regime and beyond, to the accumulation size regimes (100 ≤ Dp ≤ 1000 nm), with varying growth rates (GR) for the different size regimes at both the locations. A more rapid growth ~ 50 nm h−1 was observed at Trivandrum, in contrast to Hanle where the growth rate ranged from 0.1 to 20 nm h−1 for the transformation from the nucleation to accumulation – a size regime that can potentially act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). The faster coagulation led to lifetimes of < 1 h for nucleation mode particles.