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Mutual promotion effect between aerosol particle liquid water and nitrate formation lead to severe nitrate-dominated particulate matter pollution and low visibility
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    Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 2161–2175, 2020
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  • Description:
    As has been the case in North America and western Europe, the SO2 emissions have substantially reduced in the North China Plain (NCP) in recent years. Differential rates of reduction in SO2 and NOx concentrations result in the frequent occurrence of particulate matter pollution dominated by nitrate (pNO−3) over the NCP. In this study, we observed a polluted episode with the particulate nitrate mass fraction in nonrefractory PM1 (NR-PM1) being up to 44 % during wintertime in Beijing. Based on this typical pNO−3-dominated haze event, the linkage between aerosol water uptake and pNO−3 enhancement, further impacting on visibility degradation, has been investigated based on field observations and theoretical calculations. During haze development, as ambient relative humidity (RH) increased from ∼10 % to 70 %, the aerosol particle liquid water increased from ∼1 µg m−3 at the beginning to ∼75 µg m−3 in the fully developed haze period. The aerosol liquid water further increased the aerosol surface area and volume, enhancing the condensational loss of N2O5 over particles. From the beginning to the fully developed haze, the condensational loss of N2O5 increased by a factor of 20 when only considering aerosol surface area and volume of dry particles, while increasing by a factor of 25 when considering extra surface area and volume due to water uptake. Furthermore, aerosol liquid water favored the thermodynamic equilibrium of HNO3 in the particle phase under the supersaturated HNO3 and NH3 in the atmosphere. All the above results demonstrated that pNO−3 is enhanced by aerosol water uptake with elevated ambient RH during haze development, in turn facilitating the aerosol take-up of water due to the hygroscopicity of particulate nitrate salt. Such mutual promotion between aerosol particle liquid water and particulate nitrate enhancement can rapidly degrade air quality and halve visibility within 1 d. Reduction of nitrogen-containing gaseous precursors, e.g., by control of traffic emissions, is essential in mitigating severe haze events in the NCP.
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