Di Liu1, Matthias Vonwiller2, Jun Li  1, Junwen Liu3, Sönke Szidat2, Yanlin Zhang4, Chongguo Tian5, Yinjun Chen6, Zhineng Cheng1, Guangcai Zhong1, Pingqing Fu7, Gan Zhang1

1 State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry and Guangdong province Key Laboratory of Environmental Protection and Resources Utilization, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510640, China
2 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry & Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Berne 3012, Switzerland
3 Institute for Environmental and Climate Research, Jinan University, Guangzhou 511443, China
4 Yale-NUIST Center on Atmospheric Environment, International Joint Laboratory on Climate and Environment Change (ILCEC), Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
5 Key Laboratory of Coastal Environmental Processes and Ecological Remediation, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yantai 264003, China
6 State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resources Reuse, Key Laboratory of Cities’ Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China
7 Institute of Surface-Earth System Science, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China


Received: December 20, 2019
Revised: June 2, 2020
Accepted: June 6, 2020

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2019.12.0642  

Cite this article:

Liu, D., Vonwiller, M., Li, J., Liu, J, Szidat, S., Zhang, Y., Tian, C., Chen, Y., Cheng, Z, Zhong, G., Fu, P. and Zhang, G. (2020). Fossil and Non-fossil Fuel Sources of Organic and Elemental Carbonaceous Aerosol in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou: Seasonal Carbon Source Variation. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20: 2495–2506. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2019.12.0642


  • Fossil and non-fossil emissions are important contributors to air pollution in China.
  • High contribution of non-fossil sources (> 55%) in three cities during autumn.
  • Fossil fuel contributed to the majority of pollution in Beijing during winter (64%).
  • Fossil fuel made the greatest contribution in Shanghai during summer (71%).


We measured the radiocarbon isotope signals in various fractions of carbonaceous aerosols sampled across four seasons (Oct 2013–Jul 2014) in three megacities of China, viz., Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The contributions of fossil fuel (FF) and non-fossil fuel (NF) to the carbonaceous aerosol were estimated based on the radiocarbon content in the organic carbon (OC), water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC), water-insoluble organic carbon (WIOC), and elemental carbon (EC). Although NF generated the primary share (> 55%) during autumn in all of the cities, the seasonal contributions of the sources differed by location during the rest of the year. During winter, FF emissions constituted the majority of the carbonaceous pollution (64%) in Beijing, probably as a result of increased coal combustion for heating. On average, the EC, WSOC, and WIOC generated by FF composed ~10%, 35%, and 19% of the total carbon (TC). Overall, NF was identified as the largest source of carbonaceous aerosol in Guangzhou (63%), whereas FF was the largest source, contributing slightly more than NF, in Shanghai (54%). During spring and summer, FF played a greater role than NF in Beijing (~55%) and Guangzhou (~63%); additionally, based on our limited number of samples, it contributed 71% in Shanghai during the latter season, with a significant portion due to fuel combustion (i.e., industrial, vehicular, fishing-boat, and large-vessel emissions).

Keywords: Carbonaceous aerosol; Fine aerosol; Source apportionment.

Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 20 :2495 -2506 . https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2019.12.0642  

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