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Flying PSM! At what height do you see nanoparticles?

Atmospheric single-digit nanoparticles are primary (or delayed primary) aerosol particles or of secondary origin. These are known facts. But how does this relate to particle number concentrations at different heights?

INAR researchers flew around the Hyytiälä forest site in Finland to study the spatial extent of new particle formation (NPF) in the lower atmosphere, from the ground level up to 3 km. They mounted their CPCs, a PSM, and other instruments in a small airplane and took them to the sky. Simultaneous measurements were made on the ground at the research Station for Measuring Ecosystem-Atmospheric Relations (SMEAR) II.

During NPF days, the highest number concentrations of sub-3 nm particles were observed at the lowest flight heights right above the forest. This indicates that the sources of the particles and their precursor vapors were near the ground level. An interesting finding was also that in the mornings of the NPF days, the number concentration of 3–10 nm particles started to increase after a minimum at about 2.4 km, and the highest numbers were measured at the highest flight altitudes.

Aircraft for flight measurements

An airplane as your measurement cabin can be a challenge—not only from the instrumentation point of view, but also because of tight schedules and flight plans for air traffic control. But when you overcome that, the results can be very interesting, says scientist Katri Leino from INAR, and continues: “The next step would be to continue the measurements in Hyytiälä to find out more about how and where (vertically) the particles form.”


To learn the details of the research—and the flying PSM—read the paper by Katri Leino and her colleagues:

Leino et al. Vertical profiles of sub-3 nm particles over the boreal forest. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.,, in review, 2018.

For more about research at INAR, please visit their website: INAR – Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research

Photograph courtesy of Katri Leino





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