Optical properties and source identification of black carbon and brown carbon: comparison of winter and summer haze episodes in Xi'an, Northwest China†
Summer and winter fine particulate matter (PM2.5) samples were collected to provide insight into the seasonal variations of the optical properties and source profiles of PM2.5 black carbon (BC) and brown carbon (BrC) in Xi'an, China. The average PM2.5 mass concentration during the winter haze (WH) period was 292.5 μg m−3, which was 2.6, 5.0 and 9.2 times higher than that during winter non-haze (WNH), summer haze (SH), and summer non-haze (SNH) periods, respectively. Regarding optical properties, the PM2.5 chemical-derived light extinction coefficient was the highest during the WH period (1019.2 Mm−1) and decreased by approximately one-fourth in the SH period (237.6 Mm−1). During the WH period, the light absorption coefficient of BC (babs-BC) was considerably higher than that during the SH period; this is attributable to the thick coatings of inorganic ions on BC and intensive fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions in winter. Source apportionment also proved that fossil fuels were the major emission source of BC in SH and WH periods with high light absorption coefficient babs_FF (fossil fuel) fractions (>70%). Biomass burning contributed to 25.8% of BC in the winter haze period, but to only 5.4% of BC in the summer haze period. The mass absorption coefficient of BC (MAC-BC) was higher in summer, as it was considerably influenced by vehicle emissions, whereas it was lower in winter due to the strong influences of biomass burning. Moreover, the high light absorption coefficient of BrC (babs-BrC) in both WH and WNH indicated substantial light absorption during winter; however, this coefficient was considerably lower in summer. A remarkable difference in the diurnal pattern of haze between babs-BrC and babs-BC indicated that BC leads to a severe visibility reduction during traffic rush hours. In addition, the BrC abundance observed in Xi'an revealed different diurnal patterns in WH and SH periods, which can be attributed to different secondary formation processes. SH BrC was generally contributed by photochemical-derived secondary organic carbon (SOC) whereas the abundant WH BrC was mainly transformed from aqueous-SOC.