On the fossil and non-fossil fuel sources of carbonaceous aerosol with radiocarbon and AMS-PMF methods during winter hazy days in a rural area of North China plain

Yangmei Zhang, Xiaoye Zhang, Junting Zhong, Junying Sun, Xiaojing Shen, Zhouxiang Zhang, Wanyun Xu, Yaqiang Wang, Linlin Liang, Yusi Liu, Xinyao Hu, Ming He, Yijun Pang, Huarong Zhao, Sanxue Ren, Zongbo Shi*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Regional transport is a key source of carbonaceous aerosol in many Chinese megacities including Beijing. The sources of carbonaceous aerosol in urban areas have been studied extensively but are poorly known in upwind rural areas. This work aims to quantify the contributions of fossil and non-fossil fuel emissions to carbonaceous aerosols at a rural site in North China Plain in winter 2016. We integrated online high resolution-time of flight-aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-TOF-AMS) observations and radiocarbon (14C) measurements of fine particles with Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) analysis as well as Extended Gelencsér (EG) method. We found that fine particle concentration is much higher at the rural site than in Beijing during the campaign (Dec 7, 2016 to Jan 8, 2017). PMF analysis of the AMS data showed that coal-combustion related organic aerosol (CCOA + Oxidized CCOA) and more oxidized oxygenated organic aerosol (MO-OOA) contributed 48% and 30% of organic matter to non-refractory PM1 (NR-PM1) mass. About 2/3 of the OC and EC were from fossil-fuel combustion. The EG method, combining AMS-PMF and 14C data, showed that primary and secondary OC from fossil fuel contribute 35% and 22% to total carbon (TC), coal combustion emission dominates the fossil fuel sources, and biomass burning accounted for 21% of carbonaceous aerosol. In summary, our results confirm that fossil fuel combustion was the dominant source of carbonaceous aerosol during heavy pollution events in the rural areas. Significant emissions of solid fuel carbonaceous aerosols at rural areas can affect air quality in downwind cities such as Beijing and Tianjin, highlighting the benefits of energy transition from solid fuels to cleaner energy in rural areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112672
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Research
Early online date7 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 41675121 and 41775121 ) and Chinese Government Scholarship (CSC NO. 202105330037 ). Z.S. is funded by UK Natural Environment Research Council (Grant no. NE/R005281/1 and NE/N007190/1 ). The study was also supported by the Innovation Team for Haze-fog Observation and Forecasts of MOST.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Air pollution
  • Biomass burning
  • Coal combustion
  • Fossil and non-fossil fuel emission
  • Sources apportionment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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