Articles | Volume 14, issue 6
Research article
 | Highlight paper
20 Mar 2014
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 20 Mar 2014

Characterization of submicron aerosols during a month of serious pollution in Beijing, 2013

J. K. Zhang, Y. Sun, Z. R. Liu, D. S. Ji, B. Hu, Q. Liu, and Y. S. Wang

Abstract. In January 2013, Beijing experienced several serious haze events. To achieve a better understanding of the characteristics, sources and processes of aerosols during this month, an Aerodyne high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS) was deployed at an urban site between 1 January and 1 February 2013 to obtain the size-resolved chemical composition of non-refractory submicron particles (NR-PM1). During this period, the mean measured NR-PM1 mass concentration was 89.3 ± 85.6 μg m−3, and it peaked at 423 μg m−3. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) differentiated the organic aerosol into five components, including a highly oxidized, low-volatility oxygenated organic aerosol (LV-OOA), a less oxidized, semi-volatile oxygenated OA (SV-OOA), a coal combustion OA (CCOA), a cooking-related OA (COA), and a hydrocarbon-like OA (HOA), which on average accounted for 28%, 26%, 15%, 20% and 11% of the total organic mass, respectively.

A detailed comparison between the polluted days and unpolluted days found many interesting results. First, the organic fraction was the most important NR-PM1 species during the unpolluted days (58%), while inorganic species were dominant on polluted days (59%). The OA composition also experienced a significant change; it was dominated by primary OA (POA), including COA, HOA and CCOA, on unpolluted days. The contribution of secondary OA (SOA) increased from 35% to 63% between unpolluted and polluted days. Second, meteorological effects played an important role in the heavy pollution in this month and differed significantly between the two types of days. The temperature and relative humidity (RH) were all increased on polluted days and the wind speed and air pressure were decreased. Third, the diurnal variation trend in NR-PM1 species and OA components showed some differences between the two types of days, and the OA was more highly oxidized on polluted days. Fourth, the effects of air masses were significantly different between the two types of days; air was mainly transported from contaminated areas on the polluted days. The comparison also found that the aerosol was more acidic on polluted days. Additionally, the variation trends of the mass concentration and mass fractions of NR-PM1 species and OA components were more dramatic when the NR-PM1 mass loading was at a higher level. The serious pollution observed in this month can be attributed to the synergy of unfavorable meteorological factors, the transport of air masses from high-pollution areas, emission by local sources, and other factors.

Final-revised paper