Yanpeng Li 1,2, Xiao Guo1, Tinglu Wang1, Yue Zhao1, Haifeng Zhang1, Wenke Wang 1,2

  • 1 School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Chang’an University, Xi’an 710054, China
  • 2 Key Laboratory of Subsurface Hydrology and Ecology in Arid Areas, Ministry of Education, Xi’an 710054, China

Received: June 22, 2014
Revised: November 27, 2014
Accepted: January 13, 2015
Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2014.06.0123  

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Cite this article:
Li, Y., Guo, X., Wang, T., Zhao, Y., Zhang, H. and Wang, W. (2015). Characteristics of Atmospheric Small Ions and Their Application to Assessment of Air Quality in a Typical Semi-Arid City of Northwest China. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 15: 865-874. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2014.06.0123


  • The spatial-temporal variation of small air ions were quantified in Xi'an, China.
  • Meteorological effect mechanisms on air ion levels were analyzed quantitatively. 
  • The air quality in Xi’an was assessed based solely on concentrations of small ions.
  • Small air ions detected in Xi’an show lower level and more uneven characteristics.



Observations of atmospheric air ions at most geographic areas have been undertaken, but there are still very few observations at middle-latitude semi-arid areas throughout the world. To quantify characteristics of small air ions in semi-arid areas of China, measurements of small air ions and particulate matter (PM10) were conducted at 16 different sites in Xi'an (34°26′N, 108°94'E), China, from August 2009 to July 2010 along with meteorological parameters. The influences of meteorological parameters and PM10 concentration on small air ions as well as their influence mechanisms were discussed in detail. The results showed that both spatial and temporal distributions of small ions were uneven in Xi’an city. Spatially, the concentration of small ions increased gradually from city center to the suburbs. The mean annual concentration of small negative ions was in the range of 200–400 cm–3 with the mean value of 261 ± 39 cm–3 at urban areas, while more than 500 cm–3 at suburban areas. Significant seasonal variations of small ions were observed with highest level in summer, followed by spring and autumn, and lowest in winter at various types of sites. The positive correlations were found between small ions concentration and temperature as well as relative humidity, while negative correlation between the small ions concentration and PM10 concentration. Air ions concentration was also applied to the assessment of air quality in Xi’an. The assessment results indicated that the air quality was better at suburban areas than at urban areas, suggesting that the unipolarity model is reasonable to indicate air cleanness.

Keywords: Air ions; Meteorological parameters; Particulate matter; Air quality; Semi-arid areas

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