Articles | Volume 17, issue 8
Research article
19 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 19 Apr 2017

Real-time aerosol optical properties, morphology and mixing states under clear, haze and fog episodes in the summer of urban Beijing

Rui Li, Yunjie Hu, Ling Li, Hongbo Fu, and Jianmin Chen

Abstract. Elucidating the relationship between characteristics of aerosol particles and optical absorption is important to deepen the understanding of atmospheric chemistry. Aerosol particles play significant roles in climate forcing via their optical absorption properties. However, the relationship between characteristics of aerosol particles and optical absorption remains poorly understood. Aerosol optical properties and morphologies were measured by a transmission electron microscope (TEM), cavity ring-down spectrometer (CRDS), a nephelometer and an Aethalometer in a urban site of Beijing from 24 May to 22 June. Five episodes were categorized according to the meteorological conditions and composition. The results showed that the clear episode (EP-2 and EP-4) featured as the low aerosol optical depth (AOD  =  0.72) and fewer pollutants compared with haze (1.14) and fog (2.92) episodes and the particles are mostly externally mixed. The high Ångström exponent (> 2.0) suggests that coarse particles were scarcely observed in EP-2 due to the washout of a previous heavy rain, whereas they were widespread in EP-4 (Ångström exponent  =  0.04), which had some mineral particles introduced from the north. In contrast, industry-induced haze (EP-1) and biomass-burning-induced haze (EP-5) were both affected by the south air mass. Compared with the EP-2 and EP-4, the AOD values and the size distribution of particles during EP-1 and EP-5 were much greater because of relatively high particle concentrations. All of the particles were classified into nine categories, i.e. S-rich, N-rich, mineral, K-rich, soot, tar ball, organic, metal and fly ash, on the basis of TEM analysis. In contrast to the EP-1, a large fraction of soot, which sticks to KCl, sulfate or nitrate particles, was detected during EP-5. Additionally, evident enhancement of light absorption was observed during the EP-5, which was mainly ascribed to both black carbon (BC) acceleration and other absorbing substances. However, soot was found mostly internally mixed with sulfate and nitrate during a soot fog episode (EP-3), resulting in evident enhancement of light absorption. The larger size distribution was likely to be caused by both hygroscopic growth and collision between particles during the aging. About 28 % of particles were internally mixed during the foggy days, which favoured the light absorption. The comparison of all the episodes provides a deeper insight into how mixing states influence the aerosol extinction properties and also a clue as to how to control air pollution in the crop burning seasons.

Short summary
Five episodes were divided based on meteorological conditions and chemical composition. The clear episodes (EP-2 and EP-4) featured low light extinction with fewer pollutants, which are mostly externally mixed. In contrast, EP-1 and EP-5 were impacted by the industrial activities and biomass burning through the southern air mass, respectively. Soot at the fog period detected in EP-3 was mostly internally mixed with sulfates and nitrates.
Final-revised paper