1Key Lab of Aerosol Science & Technology, State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi'an 710075, China
2School of Environmental and Municipal Engineering, Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology, Xi'an 710055, China
3Department of Geographical Science and Environmental Engineering, Baoji University of Arts and Sciences, Baoji 721013, China
4South China Institute of Environmental Sciences, China Ministry of Environmental Protection, Guangzhou 510655, China
5Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China
6Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China
Abstract. Composition and size distribution of atmospheric aerosols from Xi'an city (~400 m, altitude) in inland China during the spring of 2009 including a massive dust event on 24 April were measured and compared with a parallel measurement at the summit (2060 m, altitude) of Mt. Hua, an alpine site nearby Xi'an. EC (elemental carbon), OC (organic carbon) and major ions in the city were 2–22 times higher than those on the mountaintop during the whole sampling period. Compared to that in the non-dust period a sharp increase in OC was observed at both sites during the dust period, which was mainly caused by an input of biogenic organics from the Gobi desert. However, adsorption/heterogeneous reaction of gaseous organics with dust was another important source of OC in the urban, contributing 22% of OC in the dust event. In contrast to the mountain atmosphere where fine particles were less acidic when dust was present, the urban fine particles became more acidic in the dust event than in the non-dust event, mainly due to enhanced heterogeneous formation of nitrate and diluted NH3. Cl− and NO3− in the urban air during the dust event significantly shifted toward coarse particles. Such redistributions were further pronounced on the mountaintop when dust was present, resulting in both ions almost entirely staying in coarse particles. On the contrary, no significant spatial difference in size distribution of SO42− was found between the urban ground surface and the mountain atmosphere, which dominated in the fine mode (<2.1 μm) during the nonevent and comparably distributed in the fine (<2.1 μm) and coarse (>2.1 μm) modes during the dust event.