1State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
2State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution Complex, Beijing, China
3Department of Biomedical Engineering and Environmental Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
4School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
5College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China
Abstract. Biomass burning, the largest global source of elemental carbon (EC) and primary organic carbon (OC), is strongly associated with many subjects of great scientific concern, such as secondary organic aerosol and brown carbon which exert important effects on the environment and on climate in particular. This study investigated the relationships between levoglucosan and other biomass burning tracers (i.e., water soluble potassium and mannosan) based on both ambient samples collected in Beijing and source samples. Compared with North America and Europe, Beijing was characterized by high ambient levoglucosan concentrations and low winter to summer ratios of levoglucosan, indicating significant impact of biomass burning activities throughout the year in Beijing. Comparison of levoglucosan and water soluble potassium (K+) levels suggested that it was acceptable to use K+ as a biomass burning tracer during summer in Beijing, while the contribution of fireworks to K+ could be significant during winter. Moreover, the levoglucosan to K+ ratio was found to be lower during the typical summer period (0.21 ± 0.16) compared with the typical winter period (0.51 ± 0.15). Levoglucosan correlated strongly with mannosan (R2 = 0.97) throughout the winter and the levoglucosan to mannosan ratio averaged 9.49 ± 1.63, whereas levoglucosan and mannosan exhibited relatively weak correlation (R2 = 0.73) during the typical summer period when the levoglucosan to mannosan ratio averaged 12.65 ± 3.38. Results from positive matrix factorization (PMF) model analysis showed that about 50% of the OC and EC in Beijing were associated with biomass burning processes. In addition, a new source identification method was developed based on the comparison of the levoglucosan to K+ ratio and the levoglucosan to mannosan ratio among different types of biomass. Using this method, the major source of biomass burning aerosol in Beijing was suggested to be the combustion of crop residuals, while the contribution from softwood burning was also non-negligible, especially in winter.