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Atmospheric aerosol formation from biogenic vapors is strongly affected by air pollutants

Atmospheric aerosol formation from biogenic vapors is strongly affected by air pollutants

According to a recent study, air pollution does not only affect air quality, but it also changes the pathways how new aerosol particles are formed in the atmosphere.

The formation of new aerosol particles is a complicated process. Researchers have started to understand it on a molecular level only recently, when instruments able to detect the nano-meter scale particles have become available. 

In recent study, the researchers found that in continental moderately polluted atmospheres, e.g. in the boreal forest, particles are formed most efficiently when both sulfuric acid, ammonia and organics are present simultaneously. Nitrogen oxides, on the other hand, decreased the amount of newly formed particles.

The results help to understand how new particle formation and the associated climate impact changes, if air pollution levels are decreasing in future due to stricter emission control. Aerosol particles can affect climate by scattering solar radiation and also by acting as seed particles for cloud droplets. The aerosol-cloud-climate interactions are still associate with large uncertainties in the current climate models.

The laboratory experiments leading to these results were conducted at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, in Geneva, which has one of the cleanest laboratory facilities for detailed particle formation studies. The study was led by Katrianne Lehtipalo, Associate Professor from University of Helsinki and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The study was conducted in collaboration between 25 different institutes in 9 different countries.

Further information:

Associate Prof. Katrianne Lehtipalo, tel. +358 40 663 0939,

Lehtipalo, K. et al. Multicomponent new particle formation from sulfuric acid, ammonia, and biogenic vapors. Science Advances 12.12.2018.

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