Significant contrasts in aerosol acidity between China and the United States.

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From: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics(Vol. 21, Issue 10)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 385 words

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Abstract :

Aerosol acidity governs several key processes in aerosol physics and chemistry, thus affecting aerosol mass and composition and ultimately climate and human health. Previous studies have reported aerosol pH values separately in China and the United States (USA), implying different aerosol acidity between these two countries. However, there is debate about whether mass concentration or chemical composition is the more important driver of differences in aerosol acidity. A full picture of the pH difference and the underlying mechanisms responsible is hindered by the scarcity of simultaneous measurements of particle composition and gaseous species, especially in China. Here we conduct a comprehensive assessment of aerosol acidity in China and the USA using extended ground-level measurements and regional chemical transport model simulations. We show that aerosols in China are significantly less acidic than in the USA, with pH values 1-2 units higher. Based on a proposed multivariable Taylor series method and a series of sensitivity tests, we identify major factors leading to the pH difference. Compared to the USA, China has much higher aerosol mass concentrations (gas + particle, by a factor of 8.4 on average) and a higher fraction of total ammonia (gas + particle) in the aerosol composition. Our assessment shows that the differences in mass concentrations and chemical composition play equally important roles in driving the aerosol pH difference between China and the USA - increasing the aerosol mass concentrations (by a factor of 8.4) but keeping the relative component contributions the same in the USA as the level in China increases the aerosol pH by â¼ 1.0 units and further shifting the chemical composition from US conditions to China's that are richer in ammonia increases the aerosol pH by â¼ 0.9 units. Therefore, China being both more polluted than the USA and richer in ammonia explains the aerosol pH difference. The difference in aerosol acidity highlighted in the present study implies potential differences in formation mechanisms, physicochemical properties, and toxicity of aerosol particles in these two countries.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A663744816