Modelling new particle formation events in the South African savannah

  • Rosa T. Gierens Department of Physics, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland
  • Lauri Laakso 1. Research and Development, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland 2. Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  • Ditte Mogensen Department of Physics, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland
  • Ville Vakkari Department of Physics, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland
  • Johan P. Beukes Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  • Pieter G. van Zyl Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  • Hannele Hakola Research and Development, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • Alex Guenther 1. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington, USA 2. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA
  • Jacobus J. Pienaar Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  • Michael Boy Department of Physics, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland
Keywords: atmospheric modelling, aerosols, nucleation, boundary layer, savannah

Abstract

Africa is one of the less studied continents with respect to atmospheric aerosols. Savannahs are complex dynamic systems sensitive to climate and land-use changes, but the interaction of these systems with the atmosphere is not well understood. Atmospheric particles, called aerosols, affect the climate on regional and global scales, and are an important factor in air quality. In this study, measurements from a relatively clean savannah environment in South Africa were used to model new particle formation and growth. There already are some combined long-term measurements of trace gas concentrations together with aerosol and meteorological variables available, but to our knowledge this is the first detailed simulation that includes all the main processes relevant to particle formation. The results show that both of the particle formation mechanisms investigated overestimated the dependency of the formation rates on sulphuric acid. From the two particle formation mechanisms tested in this work, the approach that included low volatile organic compounds to the particle formation process was more accurate in describing the nucleation events than the approach that did not. To obtain a reliable estimate of aerosol concentration in simulations for larger scales, nucleation mechanisms would need to include organic compounds, at least in southern Africa. This work is the first step in developing a more comprehensive new particle formation model applicable to the unique environment in southern Africa. Such a model will assist in better understanding and predicting new particle formation – knowledge which could ultimately be used to mitigate impacts of climate change and air quality.

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Published
2014-05-28

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