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Increasing importance of nitrate formation for heavy aerosol pollution in two megacities in Sichuan Basin, southwest China

Tian, Mi, Liu, Yuan, Yang, Fumo, Zhang, Leiming, Peng, Chao, Chen, Yang, Shi, Guangming, Wang, Huanbo, Luo, Bin, Jiang, Changtan, Li, Bo, Takeda, Naoki, Koizumi, Kazuhiro
Environmental pollution 2019 v.250 pp. 898-905
aerosols, ammonia, ammonium, basins, cities, hydrolysis, neutralization, nitrates, nitric acid, oxidants, ozone, particulates, photochemical reactions, pollution, pollution control, sulfates, sulfur dioxide, winter, China
Secondary inorganic aerosols, including sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium contribute to a large extent to the severe haze pollution events in China. Understanding their formation mechanisms is critical for designing effective mitigation strategies to control haze pollution, especially as the role of nitrate seemed to become more important recently, especially in some megacities. In the present study, simultaneous observations were conducted in two megacities (Chengdu and Chongqing) in Sichuan Basin of southwest China, one of the regions suffering from severe aerosol pollution. One typical long-lasting pollution event in Chengdu and Chongqing was captured during wintertime from December 25, 2016 to January 5, 2017. The campaign-average of hourly concentrations of PM2.5, sulfate, and nitrate, measured by an Aerosol Analyzer (ZSF) were 101 ± 73.8 μg/m3, 15.9 ± 11.8 μg/m3, and 24.9 ± 20.6 μg/m3, respectively, in Chengdu, and were 87.7 ± 53.8 μg/m3, 19.7 ± 13.5 μg/m3, and 15.1 ± 10.1 μg/m3, respectively, in Chongqing. Nitrate contributed substantially to PM2.5 pollution when PM2.5 was lower than 150 μg/m3, largely due to the strong secondary transformation of NOX to nitrate during the occurrence of the pollution episode. Heterogeneous hydrolysis of N2O5 dominated nitrate formation during nighttime, while photochemical reactions and high-RH enhanced gas- to aqueous-phase dissolution of NH3 and HNO3 or cloud processes likely played important roles for nitrate formation during daytime. RH-dependent heterogeneous reactions contributed greatly to the formation of sulfate. NOX is confirmed to play an important role as an oxidant in accelerating the secondary transformation of SO2 to sulfate at high RH and low O3 levels under neutralization condition during heavy PM2.5 pollution episode. Results from this study identified the formation mechanism of nitrate, especially during the daytime, and addressed the importance of heterogeneous inorganic reactions in the formation of heavy aerosol pollution events.