Light scattering characteristics of aerosols as a function of relative humidity: Part I--A comparison of measured scattering and aerosol concentrations using the theoretical models

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2000 May;50(5):686-700.


The Southeastern Aerosol and Visibility Study (SEAVS) was undertaken to characterize the size-dependent composition, thermodynamic properties, and optical characteristics of the ambient atmospheric particles in the southeastern United States. The field portion of the study was carried out from July 15 to August 25, 1995. As part of the study a relative humidity controlled inlet was built to raise or lower the relative humidity to predetermined levels before the aerosol was passed into an integrating nephelometer or particle-sizing device. Five other integrating nephelometers were operated in various configurations, two of which were fitted with a 2.5 microns inlet. Fine particle (< 2.5 microns) samplers were operated to measure concentrations of sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium ions, organic and elemental carbon, and fine soil. Mass size distributions were measured with an eight-stage, single orifice cascade impactor. Four different strategies for estimating scattering were used. First, an externally mixed model with constant specific scattering coefficients, sulfate ion mass interpreted as ammonium bisulfate, and ammonium bisulfate growth as a function of relative humidity, is assumed. Second, an externally mixed aerosol model, assuming constant dry specific scattering but with sulfate ammoniation and associated composition-dependent hygroscopicity explicitly accounted for, is used. Third, an externally mixed aerosol model, but with sulfate ammoniation, associated growth as a function of relative humidity, and sulfate size distributions, is applied. Fourth, an internally mixed aerosol model with measured sulfur size distributions and estimated size distributions for other species is used with the growth characteristics of the mixture being estimated using the Zdanovskii-Stokes-Robinson (ZSR) assumptions. Only ionic species were considered to be hygroscopic. The second, third, and fourth approaches yield similar results with reconstructed scattering comparing quite favorably with measured scattering. Accounting for sulfate ammoniation and associated water uptake was the most important detail in achieving closure between measurements and modeled scattering. In general, differences between estimated scattering, assuming internally or externally mixed models, was small. These same models were used to estimate wet to dry scattering ratios. The R2 for an ordinary least-squares regression between measured and predicted ratios was high (0.71-0.92), and in most cases the scattering ratio was insensitive to modeling assumptions. However, during some sample periods differences between predicted scattering ratios for the different modeling assumptions were as high as 30%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Humidity
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nephelometry and Turbidimetry*
  • Optics and Photonics
  • Particle Size
  • Thermodynamics


  • Aerosols