Elsevier, Atmospheric Research, (164-165), p. 118-130
The vertical profiles (up to 980 m a.s.l.) of ultrafine and micronic particles across the planetary boundary layer and the free troposphere over a Mediterranean urban environment were investigated. Measurements were carried out using a tethered balloon equipped with a miniaturized condensation particle counter, a miniaturized optical particle counter, a micro-aethalometer, a rotating impactor, and meteorological instrumentation. Simultaneous ground measurements were carried out at an urban and a regional background site. New particle formation episodes initiating in the urban area were observed under high insolation conditions. The precursors were emitted by the city and urban photochemically-activated nucleation occurred both at high atmospheric levels (tens to hundreds of metres) and at ground level. The new particle formation at ground level was limited by the high particulate matter concentrations recorded during the morning traffic rush hours that increase the condensation sink and prevent new particle formation, and therefore restricted to midday and early afternoon. The aloft new particle formation occurred earlier as the thermally ascending polluted air mass was diluted. The regional background was only affected from midday and early afternoon when sea and mountain breezes transported the urban air mass after particle growth. These events are different from most new particle formation events described in literature, characterized by a regionally originated nucleation, starting early in the morning in the regional background and persisting with a subsequent growth during a long period. An idealized and simplified model of the spatial and time occurrence of these two types of new particle formation episodes into, around and over the city was elaborated.