Droplet activation behaviour of atmospheric black carbon particles in fog as a function of their size and mixing state

Ghislain Motos, Julia Schmale, Joel C. Corbin, Marco Zanatta, Urs Baltensperger, Martin Gysel-Beer
2019 Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics  
<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Among the variety of particle types present in the atmosphere, black carbon (BC), emitted by combustion processes, is uniquely associated with harmful effects to the human body and substantial radiative forcing of the Earth. Pure BC is known to be non-hygroscopic, but its ability to acquire a coating of hygroscopic organic and inorganic material leads to increased diameter and hygroscopicity, facilitating droplet activation. This affects BC radiative forcing
more » ... aerosol–cloud interactions (ACIs) and BC life cycle. To gain insights into these processes, we performed a field campaign in winter 2015–2016 in a residential area of Zurich which aimed at establishing relations between the size and mixing state of BC particles and their activation to form droplets in fog. This was achieved by operating a CCN counter (CCNC), a scanning mobility particle sizer (SMPS), a single-particle soot photometer (SP2) and an aerosol chemical speciation monitor (ACSM) behind a combination of a total- and an interstitial-aerosol inlet.</p> <p>Our results indicate that in the morning hours of weekdays, the enhanced traffic emissions caused peaks in the number fraction of externally mixed BC particles, which do not act as CCN within the CCNC. The very low effective peak supersaturations (SS<span class="inline-formula"><sub>peak</sub></span>) occurring in fog (between approximately 0.03&amp;thinsp;% and 0.06&amp;thinsp;% during this campaign) restrict droplet activation to a minor fraction of the aerosol burden (around 0.5&amp;thinsp;% to 1&amp;thinsp;% of total particle number concentration between 20 and 593&amp;thinsp;nm) leading to very selective criteria on diameter and chemical composition. We show that bare BC cores are unable to activate to fog droplets at such low SS<span class="inline-formula"><sub>peak</sub></span>, while BC particles surrounded by thick coating have very similar activation behaviour to BC-free particles. Using simplified <span class="inline-formula"><i>κ</i></span>-Köhler theory combined with the ZSR mixing rule assuming spherical core–shell particle geometry constrained with single-particle measurements of respective volumes, we found good agreement between the predicted and the directly observed size- and mixing-state-resolved droplet activation behaviour of BC-containing particles in fog. This successful closure demonstrates the predictability of their droplet activation in fog with a simplified theoretical model only requiring size and mixing state information, which can also be applied in a consistent manner in model simulations.</p>
doi:10.5194/acp-19-2183-2019 fatcat:hvu6j5in5rghze6opdwosjn4ne