Sources, transport, and visibility impact of ambient submicrometer particle number size distributions in an urban area of central Taiwan

Li Hao Young, Chih Sheng Hsu, Ta Chih Hsiao, Neng Huei Lin, Si Chee Tsay, Tang Huang Lin, Wen Yinn Lin, Chau Ren Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study applied positive matrix factorization (PMF) to identify the sources of size-resolved submicrometer (10–1000 nm) particles and quantify their contributions to impaired visibility based on the particle number size distributions (PNSDs), aerosol light extinction (bp), air pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, SO2, O3, and NO), and meteorological parameters (temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and ultraviolet index) measured hourly over an urban basin in central Taiwan between 2017 and 2021. The transport of source-specific PNSDs was evaluated with wind and back trajectory analyses. The PMF revealed six sources to the total particle number (TPN), surface (TPS), volume (TPV), and bp. Factor 1 (F1), the key contributor to TPN (35.0 %), represented nucleation (<25 nm) particles associated with fresh traffic emission and secondary new particle formation, which were transported from the west-southwest by stronger winds (>2.2 m s−1). F2 represented the large Aitken (50–100 nm) particles transported regionally via northerly winds, whereas F3 represented large accumulation (300–1000 nm) particles, which showed elevated concentrations under stagnant conditions (<1.1 m s−1). F4 represented small Aitken (25–50 nm) particles arising from the growth and transport of the nucleation particles (F1) via west-southwesterly winds. F5 represented large Aitken particles originating from combustion-related SO2 sources and carried by west-northwesterly winds. F6 represented small accumulation (100–300 nm) particles emitted both by local sources and by the remote SO2 sources found for F5. Overall, large accumulation particles (F3) played the greatest role in determining the TPV (66.4 %) and TPS (34.8 %), and their contribution to bp increased markedly from 17.3 % to 40.7 % as visibility decreased, indicating that TPV and TPS are better metrics than TPN for estimating bp. Furthermore, slow-moving air masses—and therefore stagnant conditions—facilitate the build-up of accumulation mode particles (F3 + F6), resulting in the poorest visibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number159070
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2023


  • Aerosol light extinction
  • Back trajectory
  • Cluster analysis
  • Local source
  • Regional transport
  • Source apportionment


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