Wintertime East Asia is plagued by severe haze episodes, characterized by large contributions of carbonaceous aerosols. However, the sources and atmospheric transformations of these major components are poorly constrained, hindering development of efficient mitigation strategies and detailed modelling of effects. Here we present dual carbon isotope (δ13C and Δ14C) signatures for black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC) and water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) aerosols collected in urban (Beijing and BC for Shanghai) and regional receptors (e.g., Korea Climate Observatory at Gosan) during January 2014. Fossil sources (>50%) dominate BC at all sites with most stemming from coal combustion, except for Shanghai, where liquid fossil source is largest. During source-to-receptor transport, the δ13C fingerprint becomes enriched for WSOC but depleted for water-insoluble OC (WIOC). This reveals that the atmospheric processing of these two major pools are fundamentally different. The photochemical aging (e.g., photodissociation, photooxidation) during formation and transport can release CO2/CO or short-chain VOCs with lighter carbon, whereas the remaining WSOC becomes increasingly enriched in δ13C. On the other hand, several processes, e.g., secondary formation, rearrangement reaction in the particle phase, and photooxidation can influence WIOC. Taken together, this study highlights high fossil contributions for all carbonaceous aerosol sub-compartments in East Asia, and suggests different transformation pathways for different classes of carbonaceous aerosols.
ASJC Scopus subject areas