Browsing by Author "Gagné, Stéphanie"

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  • Gagné, Stéphanie (Helsingin yliopisto, 2011)
    Floating in the air that surrounds us is a number of small particles, invisible to the human eye. The mixture of air and particles, liquid or solid, is called an aerosol. Aerosols have significant effects on air quality, visibility and health, and on the Earth's climate. Their effect on the Earth's climate is the least understood of climatically relevant effects. They can scatter the incoming radiation from the Sun, or they can act as seeds onto which cloud droplets are formed. Aerosol particles are created directly, by human activity or natural reasons such as breaking ocean waves or sandstorms. They can also be created indirectly as vapors or very small particles are emitted into the atmosphere and they combine to form small particles that later grow to reach climatically or health relevant sizes. The mechanisms through which those particles are formed is still under scientific discussion, even though this knowledge is crucial to make air quality or climate predictions, or to understand how aerosols will influence and will be influenced by the climate's feedback loops. One of the proposed mechanisms responsible for new particle formation is ion-induced nucleation. This mechanism is based on the idea that newly formed particles were ultimately formed around an electric charge. The amount of available charges in the atmosphere varies depending on radon concentrations in the soil and in the air, as well as incoming ionizing radiation from outer space. In this thesis, ion-induced nucleation is investigated through long-term measurements in two different environments: in the background site of Hyytiälä and in the urban site that is Helsinki. The main conclusion of this thesis is that ion-induced nucleation generally plays a minor role in new particle formation. The fraction of particles formed varies from day to day and from place to place. The relative importance of ion-induced nucleation, i.e. the fraction of particles formed through ion-induced nucleation, is bigger in cleaner areas where the absolute number of particles formed is smaller. Moreover, ion-induced nucleation contributes to a bigger fraction of particles on warmer days, when the sulfuric acid and water vapor saturation ratios are lower. This analysis will help to understand the feedbacks associated with climate change.