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New results on the particle number concentrations in five European cities and in the whole of Europe

New results on the particle number concentrations in five European cities and in the whole of Europe

For analyzing the health effects of particulate matter, it is necessary to consider not only the mass of particles, but also their sizes and composition.

A simple measure that characterizes the size distributions is the number concentration of particles. Although attention to the health effects of particulate matter has been focused on particle mass fractions, a number of studies are indicating that ultrafine particles may have specific health effects. Epidemiological and toxicological studies show a strong correlation between exposure to ultrafine particles and various health endpoints.

We present an overview of the modelling of particle number concentrations (PNCs) in five major European cities, namely Helsinki, Oslo, London, Rotterdam, and Athens, in 2008, and for the whole of Europe. Novel emission inventories of particle numbers have been compiled both on urban and European scales. We used atmospheric dispersion modelling for PNCs in the five target cities and on a European scale, and evaluated the predicted results against available measured concentrations.

In all the target cities, the concentrations of particle numbers (PNs) were mostly influenced by the emissions originating from local vehicular traffic. The influence of shipping and harbours was also significant for Helsinki, Oslo, Rotterdam, and Athens, but not for London. The influence of the aviation emissions in Athens was also notable. The regional background concentrations were clearly lower than the contributions originating from urban sources in Helsinki, Oslo, and Athens. The regional background was also lower than urban contributions in traffic environments in London, but higher or approximately equal to urban contributions in Rotterdam.

It was numerically evaluated that the influence of coagulation and dry deposition on the predicted PNCs was substantial for the urban background in Oslo. The predicted and measured annual average PNCs in four cities agreed within approximately  ≤  26 % (measured as fractional biases), except for one traffic station in London. This study indicates that it is feasible to model PNCs in major cities within a reasonable accuracy, although major challenges remain in the evaluation of both the emissions and atmospheric transformation of PNCs.

More information:

Prof. Jaakko Kukkonen,, + 358 50 520 2684

Kukkonen, J., M. Karl, M.P. Keuken, H.A.C. Denier van der Gon, B.R. Denby, V. Singh, J. Douros, A. Manders, Z. Samaras, N. Moussiopoulos, S. Jonkers, M. Aarnio, A. Karppinen, L. Kangas, S. Lützenkirchen, T. Petäjä, I. Vouitsis, and R.S. Sokhi, 2016. Modelling the dispersion of particle numbers in five European cities. Geosci. Model Dev., 9, 451–478, 2016,, doi:10.5194/gmd-9-451-2016.


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