OPEN Scientific reports | 5 Apr 2017
T Jokinen, J Kontkanen, K Lehtipalo, HE Manninen, J Aalto, A Porcar-Castell, O Garmash, T Nieminen, M Ehn, J Kangasluoma, H Junninen, J Levula, J Duplissy, LR Ahonen, P Rantala, L Heikkinen, C Yan, M Sipilä, DR Worsnop, J Bäck, T Petäjä, VM Kerminen and M Kulmala
Solar eclipses provide unique possibilities to investigate atmospheric processes, such as new particle formation (NPF), important to the global aerosol load and radiative balance. The temporary absence of solar radiation gives particular insight into different oxidation and clustering processes leading to NPF. This is crucial because our mechanistic understanding on how NPF is related to photochemistry is still rather limited. During a partial solar eclipse over Finland in 2015, we found that this phenomenon had prominent effects on atmospheric on-going NPF. During the eclipse, the sources of aerosol precursor gases, such as sulphuric acid and nitrogen- containing highly oxidised organic compounds, decreased considerably, which was followed by a reduced formation of small clusters and nanoparticles and thus termination of NPF. After the eclipse, aerosol precursor molecule concentrations recovered and re-initiated NPF. Our results provide direct evidence on the key role of the photochemical production of sulphuric acid and highly oxidized organic compounds in maintaining atmospheric NPF. Our results also explain the rare occurrence of this phenomenon under dark conditions, as well as its seemingly weak connection with atmospheric ions.
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