Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
17 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 17 Jan 2012

Atmospheric aerosol compositions in China: spatial/temporal variability, chemical signature, regional haze distribution and comparisons with global aerosols

X. Y. Zhang, Y. Q. Wang, T. Niu, X. C. Zhang, S. L. Gong, Y. M. Zhang, and J. Y. Sun

Abstract. From 2006 to 2007, the daily concentrations of major inorganic water-soluble constituents, mineral aerosol, organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC) in ambient PM10 samples were investigated from 16 urban, rural and remote sites in various regions of China, and were compared with global aerosol measurements. A large difference between urban and rural chemical species was found, normally with 1.5 to 2.5 factors higher in urban than in rural sites. Optically-scattering aerosols, such as sulfate (~16%), OC (~15%), nitrate (~7%), ammonium (~5%) and mineral aerosol (~35%) in most circumstance, are majorities of the total aerosols, indicating a dominant scattering feature of aerosols in China. Of the total OC, ~55%–60% can be attributed to the formation of the secondary organic carbon (SOC). The absorbing aerosol EC only accounts for ~3.5% of the total PM10. Seasonally, maximum concentrations of most aerosol species were found in winter while mineral aerosol peaks in spring. In addition to the regular seasonal maximum, secondary peaks were found for sulfate and ammonium in summer and for OC and EC in May and June. This can be considered as a typical seasonal pattern in various aerosol components in China. Aerosol acidity was normally neutral in most of urban areas, but becomes some acidic in rural areas. Based on the surface visibility observations from 681 meteorological stations in China between 1957 and 2005, four major haze areas are identified with similar visibility changes, namely, (1) Hua Bei Plain in N. China, and the Guanzhong Plain; (2) E. China with the main body in the Yangtze River Delta area; (3) S. China with most areas of Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta area; (4) The Si Chuan Basin in S.W. China. The degradation of visibility in these areas is linked with the emission changes and high PM concentrations. Such quantitative chemical characterization of aerosols is essential in assessing their role in atmospheric chemistry and weather-climate effects, and in validating atmospheric models.

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