Large contribution of fossil fuel derived secondary organic carbon to water soluble organic aerosols in winter haze in China

Zhang, Yanlin; El-Haddad, Imad; Huang, Ru-Jin; Ho, Kin-Fai; Cao, Jun-Ji; Han, Yongming; Zotter, Peter; Bozzetti, Carlo; Daellenbach, Kaspar R.; Slowik, Jay G.; Salazar Quintero, Gary Abdiel; Prévôt, André S. H.; Szidat, Sönke (2018). Large contribution of fossil fuel derived secondary organic carbon to water soluble organic aerosols in winter haze in China. Atmospheric chemistry and physics, 18(6), pp. 4005-4017. European Geosciences Union 10.5194/acp-18-4005-2018

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Water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) is a large fraction of organic aerosols (OA) globally and has significant impacts on climate and human health. The sources of WSOC remain very uncertain in polluted regions. Here we present a quantitative source apportionment of WSOC, isolated from aerosols in China using radiocarbon (14C) and offline high-resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer measurements. Fossil emissions on average accounted for 32–47% of WSOC. Secondary organic carbon (SOC) dominated both the non-fossil and fossil derived WSOC, highlighting the importance of secondary formation to WSOC in severe winter haze episodes. Contributions from fossil emissions to SOC were 61±4 and 50±9% in Shanghai and Beijing, respectively, significantly larger than those in Guangzhou (36±9 %) and Xi’an (26±9 %). The most important primary sources were biomass burning emissions, contributing 17–26% of WSOC. The remaining primary sources such as coal combustion, cooking and traffic were generally very small but not negligible contributors, as coal combustion contribution could exceed 10 %. Taken together with earlier 14C source apportionment studies in urban, rural, semi-urban and background regions in Asia, Europe and the USA, we demonstrated a dominant contribution of non-fossil emissions (i.e., 75±11 %) to WSOC aerosols in the Northern Hemisphere; however, the fossil fraction is substantially larger in aerosols from East Asia and the eastern Asian pollution outflow, especially during winter, due to increasing coal combustion. Inclusion of our findings can improve a modelling of effects of WSOC aerosols on climate, atmospheric
chemistry and public health.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Zhang, Yanlin, Salazar Quintero, Gary Abdiel, Szidat, Sönke


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry




European Geosciences Union




Sönke Szidat

Date Deposited:

03 May 2018 15:32

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:12

Publisher DOI:





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