Particles in the atmosphere arise from natural sources, such as wind-borne dust, sea spray, and volcanoes, and from anthropogenic activities, such as combustion of fuels. While an aerosol is technically defined as a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles in a gas, common usage refers to the aerosol as the particulate component only. Emitted directly as particles (primary aerosol) or formed in the atmosphere by gas-to-particle conversion processes (secondary aerosol), atmospheric aerosols are generally considered to be the particles that range in size from a few nanometers to tens of micrometers in diameter. Once airborne, particles can change their size and composition by condensation of vapor species or by evaporation, by coagulating with other particles, by chemical reaction, or by activation in the presence of water supersaturation to become fog and cloud droplets. Particles smaller than 1 pm diameter generally have atmospheric concentrations in the range from around tens to thousands per cubic centimeter; those exceeding 1 pm diameter are usually found at concentrations less than 1 per cm3.
A significant fraction of the tropospheric aerosol is anthropogenic in origin. Chemical components of tropospheric aerosols include sulfate, ammonium, nitrate, sodium, chloride, trace metals, carbonaceous material, crustal elements, and water. The carbonaceous fraction consists of both elemental and organic carbon. Elemental carbon, also called black carbon, graphitic carbon, or soot, is emitted directly into the atmosphere, predominantly from combustion processes. Particulate organic
Handbook of Weather, Climate, and Water: Atmospheric Chemistry, Hydrology, and Societal Impacts, Edited by Thomas D. Potter and Bradley R. Colman. ISBN 0-471-21489-2 © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
carbon is emitted directly by sources or can result from atmospheric condensation of low-volatility organic gases.
Was this article helpful?