Vertically-resolved particle size distribution within and above the mixing layer over the Milan metropolitan area
Vertical aerosol profiles were directly measured over the city of Milan during three years (2005–2008) of field campaigns. An optical particle counter, a portable meteorological station and a miniaturized cascade impactor were deployed on a tethered balloon. More than 300 vertical profiles were measured, both in winter and summer, mainly in conditions of clear, dry skies. \n\nThe mixing height was determined from the observed vertical aerosol concentration gradient, and from potential temperature and relative humidity profiles. Results show that inter-consistent mixing heights can be retrieved highlighting good correlations between particle dispersion in the atmosphere and meteorological parameters. Mixing height growth speed was calculated for both winter and summer showing the low potential atmospheric dispersion in winter. Aerosol number size distribution and chemical composition profiles allowed us to investigate particle behaviour along height. Aerosol measurements showed changes in size distribution according to mixing height. Coarse particle profiles (dp >1.6 μm) were distributed differently than the fine ones (dp <1.6 μm) were, at different heights of the mixing layer. The sedimentation process influenced the coarse particle profiles, and led to a reduction in mean particle diameter for those particles observed by comparing data above the mixing height with ground data (−14.9±0.6% in winter and −10.7±1.0% in summer). Conversely, the mean particle diameter of fine particles increased above the mixing height under stable atmospheric conditions; the average increase, observed by comparing data above the mixing height with ground data, was +2.1±0.1% in winter and +3.9±0.3% in summer. A hierarchical statistical model was created to describe the changes in the size distribution of fine particles along height. The proposed model can be used to estimate the typical vertical profile characterising launches within pre-specified groups starting from: aerosol size and meteorological conditions measured at ground-level, and a mixing height estimation. The average increase of fine particle diameter, estimated on the basis of the model, was +1.9±0.5% in winter and +6.1±1.2% in summer, in keeping with experimental findings.