Dominant mechanisms that shape the airborne particle size and composition distribution in central California Academic Article uri icon


  • The size and composition of ambient airborne particulate matter is reported for winter conditions at five locations in (or near) the San Joaquin Valley in central California. Two distinct types of airborne particles were identified based on diurnal patterns and size distribution similarity: hygroscopic sulfate/ammonium/nitrate particles and less hygroscopic particles composed of mostly organic carbon with smaller amounts of elemental carbon. Daytime PM 10 concentrations for sulfate/ammonium/nitrate particles were measured to be 10.1 g m -3 , 28.3 g m -3 , and 52.8 g m -3 at Sacramento, Modesto and Bakersfield, California, respectively. Nighttime concentrations were 10-30% lower, suggesting that these particles are dominated by secondary production. Simulation of the data with a box model suggests that these particles were formed by the condensation of ammonia and nitric acid onto background or primary sulfate particles. These hygroscopic particles had a mass distribution peak in the accumulation mode (0.56-1.0 m) at all times. Daytime PM 10 carbon particle concentrations were measured to be 9.5 g m -3 , 15.1 g m -3 , and 16.2 g m -3 at Sacramento, Modesto, and Bakersfield, respectively. Corresponding nighttime concentrations were 200-300% higher, suggesting that these particles are dominated by primary emissions. The peak in the carbon particle mass distribution varied between 0.2-1.0 m. Carbon particles emitted directly from combustion sources typically have a mass distribution peak diameter between 0.1-0.32 m. Box model calculations suggest that the formation of secondary organic aerosol is negligible under cool winter conditions, and that the observed shift in the carbon particle mass distribution results from coagulation in the heavily polluted concentrations experienced during the current study. The analysis suggests that carbon particles and sulfate/ammonium/nitrate particles exist separately in the atmosphere of the San Joaquin Valley until coagulation mixes them in the accumulation mode. Copyright American Association for Aerosol Research.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Herner, J. D., Ying, Q. i., Aw, J., Gao, O., Chang, D., & Kleeman, M. J.

citation count

  • 77

complete list of authors

  • Herner, Jorn D||Ying, Qi||Aw, Jeremy||Gao, Oliver||Chang, Daniel PY||Kleeman, Michael J

publication date

  • October 2006