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Aerosol hygroscopicity at a regional background site (Ispra) in Northern Italy

by M. Adam, J. P. Putaud, S. Martins Dos Santos, A. Dell'Acqua, C. Gruening
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()


This study focuses on the aerosol hygroscopic properties as determined from ground-based measurements and Mie theory. Usually, aerosol ground-based measurements are taken in dry conditions in order to have a consistency within networks. The dependence of the various aerosol optical characteristics (e.g. aerosol absorption, scattering, backscattering or extinction coefficients) on relative humidity has therefore to be established in order to determine their values in the atmosphere, where relative humidity can reach high values. We calculated mean monthly diurnal values of the aerosol hygroscopic growth factor at 90% relative humidity GF(90) based on measurements performed at the atmospheric research station in Ispra (Italy) with a Hygroscopicity Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer over eight months in 2008 and 2009. Particle hygroscopicity increases with particle dry diameter ranging from 35 to 165 nm for all seasons. We observed a clear seasonal variation in GF(90) for particles larger than 75 nm, and a diurnal cycle in spring and winter for all sizes. For 165 nm particles, GF(90) averages 1.32 ┬▒ 0.06. The effect of the particle hygroscopic growth on the aerosol optical properties (scattering, extinction, absorption and backscatter coefficients, asymmetry parameter and backscatter faction) was computed using the Mie theory, based on data obtained from a series of instruments running at our station. We found median enhancement factors (defined as ratios between the values of optical variables at 90% and 0% relative humidity) equal to 1.1, 2.1, 1.7, and 1.8, for the aerosol absorption, scattering, backscattering, and extinction coefficients, respectively. All except the absorption enhancement factors show a strong correlation with the hygroscopic growth factor. The enhancement factors observed at our site are among the lowest observed across the world for the aerosol scattering coefficient, and among the highest for the aerosol backscatter fraction.

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