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Nocturnal sub-3 nm particles and airport as a source of ultrafine particles in Madrid

Research consortium with collaborators from several European universities studied new particle formation and the growth of ultrafine particles in several locations in Madrid, Spain. Cristina Carnerero from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC) and her colleagues report the findings in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions.

In addition to several daytime nucleation events, the researchers also report a few phenomena that were not anticipated. On several nights at their urban and suburban sites they observed high concentrations of 1.2-4 nm particles for several hours starting from sunset. Based on simultaneous BC, NO and NO2 measurements they conclude that the particles are related to local traffic and the decrease of the mixing layer after sunset.

They also observed shorter bursts of 1-4 nm particles with high number concentrations when BC levels were low and NO2 concentrations were moderate. Such incidents were observed on nights when the wind was from the Airport of Madrid. The airport is the sixth busiest in Europe and is relatively busy also at night time. Thus, the researchers estimate that the airport affects nucleation mode particles at measurement site 12 km away.

Based on their measurements, the summer time particle number concentration in Madrid is dominated by nucleated particles. The extent of the observed high concentrations of ultrafine and nucleation mode particles, in what is one of the most populated areas in Europe, lead the researchers to call for health studies: “…we believe that the study of health effects related to newly-formed particle inhalation is crucial.”


To read the article by Carnerero et al., please see the journal: Vertical and horizontal distribution of regional new particle formation events in Madrid. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.,, in review, 2018.

To learn more about the Environmental Geochemistry and Atmospheric Research group at IDAEA-CSIC, please visit their website: EGAR





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