Seasonality of the particle number concentration and size distribution: A global analysis retrieved from the network of Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) near-surface observatories

Clemence Rose, Martine Collaud Coen, Elisabeth Andrews, Yong Lin, Isaline Bossert, Cathrine Lund Myhre, Thomas Tuch, Alfred Wiedensohler, Markus Fiebig, Pasi Aalto, Andres Alastuey, Elisabeth Alonso-Blanco, Marcos Andrade, Begona Artinano, Todor Arsov, Urs Baltensperger, Susanne Bastian, Olaf Bath, Johan Paul Beukes, Benjamin T. BremNicolas Bukowiecki, Juan Andres Casquero-Vera, Sebastien Conil, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis, Olivier Favez, Harald Flentje, Maria I. Gini, Francisco Javier Gomez-Moreno, Martin Gysel-Beer, Anna Gannet Hallar, Ivo Kalapov, Nikos Kalivitis, Anne Kasper-Giebl, Melita Keywood, Jeong Eun Kim, Sang Woo Kim, Adam Kristensson, Markku Kulmala, Heikki Lihavainen, Neng Huei Lin, Hassan Lyamani, Angela Marinoni, Sebastiao Martins Dos Santos, Olga L. Mayol-Bracero, Frank Meinhardt, Maik Merkel, Jean Marc Metzger, Nikolaos Mihalopoulos, Jakub Ondracek, Marco Pandolfi, Noemi Perez, Tuukka Petaja, Jean Eudes Petit, David Picard, Jean Marc Pichon, Veronique Pont, Jean Philippe Putaud, Fabienne Reisen, Karine Sellegri, Sangeeta Sharma, Gerhard Schauer, Patrick Sheridan, James Patrick Sherman, Andreas Schwerin, Ralf Sohmer, Mar Sorribas, Junying Sun, Pierre Tulet, Ville Vakkari, Pieter Gideon Van Zyl, Fernando Velarde, Paolo Villani, Stergios Vratolis, Zdenek Wagner, Sheng Hsiang Wang, Kay Weinhold, Rolf Weller, Margarita Yela, Vladimir Zdimal, Paolo Laj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Aerosol particles are a complex component of the atmospheric system which influence climate directly by interacting with solar radiation, and indirectly by contributing to cloud formation. The variety of their sources, as well as the multiple transformations they may undergo during their transport (including wet and dry deposition), result in significant spatial and temporal variability of their properties. Documenting this variability is essential to provide a proper representation of aerosols and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) in climate models. Using measurements conducted in 2016 or 2017 at 62 ground-based stations around the world, this study provides the most up-to-date picture of the spatial distribution of particle number concentration (Ntot) and number size distribution (PNSD, from 39 sites). A sensitivity study was first performed to assess the impact of data availability on Ntot's annual and seasonal statistics, as well as on the analysis of its diel cycle. Thresholds of 50g% and 60g% were set at the seasonal and annual scale, respectively, for the study of the corresponding statistics, and a slightly higher coverage (75g%) was required to document the diel cycle. Although some observations are common to a majority of sites, the variety of environments characterizing these stations made it possible to highlight contrasting findings, which, among other factors, seem to be significantly related to the level of anthropogenic influence. The concentrations measured at polar sites are the lowest (g1/4g102gcm-3) and show a clear seasonality, which is also visible in the shape of the PNSD, while diel cycles are in general less evident, due notably to the absence of a regular day-night cycle in some seasons. In contrast, the concentrations characteristic of urban environments are the highest (g1/4g103-104gcm-3) and do not show pronounced seasonal variations, whereas diel cycles tend to be very regular over the year at these stations. The remaining sites, including mountain and non-urban continental and coastal stations, do not exhibit as obvious common behaviour as polar and urban sites and display, on average, intermediate Ntot (g1/4g102-103gcm-3). Particle concentrations measured at mountain sites, however, are generally lower compared to nearby lowland sites, and tend to exhibit somewhat more pronounced seasonal variations as a likely result of the strong impact of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) influence in connection with the topography of the sites. ABL dynamics also likely contribute to the diel cycle of Ntot observed at these stations. Based on available PNSD measurements, CCN-sized particles (considered here as either >50gnm or >100gnm) can represent from a few percent to almost all of Ntot, corresponding to seasonal medians on the order of g1/4g10 to 1000gcm-3, with seasonal patterns and a hierarchy of the site types broadly similar to those observed for Ntot. Overall, this work illustrates the importance of in situ measurements, in particular for the study of aerosol physical properties, and thus strongly supports the development of a broad global network of near surface observatories to increase and homogenize the spatial coverage of the measurements, and guarantee as well data availability and quality. The results of this study also provide a valuable, freely available and easy to use support for model comparison and validation, with the ultimate goal of contributing to improvement of the representation of aerosol-cloud interactions in models, and, therefore, of the evaluation of the impact of aerosol particles on climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17185-17223
Number of pages39
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number22
StatePublished - 25 Nov 2021


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