Aerosol size spectra (d = 10 nm-10 mum) were measured with an electrical aerosol spectrometer (EAS) at Mace Head on the west coast of Ireland. Several small aerosol particle (diameter 10-32 nm) concentration bursts were observed during the measurement period. Relationships between the events, air mass trajectories, tide height, and meteorological parameters are examined. Series of bursts were observed when a spectral transformation due to subsequent particle growth from 10 to 56-100 nm can be identified in an Eulerian experiment. Particle growth rates of between I and 3 nm/h were determined. These bursts appear in cold and comparatively clean arctic or polar air masses with temperature and relative humidity fluctuations, and do not correlate with low tide in some cases. These episodes, similar to those frequently found in the continental boundary layer, are thought to occur over a wide area and, for clear detection, require stable airflow for a few days. Elevated small-particle concentration events are more common during low tide or shortly after, and are typically associated with low wind speeds. Here, the increased shore exposure during low tide is thought to influence the nucleation and the subsequent growth of these aerosol particles. The occurrences of the bursts are found to depend on local wind direction. The highest d = 10-32 nm particle concentrations appeared for wind sectors furthest from the tidal regions when the wind direction was 150-160degrees (south-easterly). Most of the events occurred during daytime when solar irradiation is most intense. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.