1School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China
3Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
4Atmospheric Research and Analysis, Inc., Durham, North Carolina, USA
*now at: Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Abstract. Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) in the Southeastern US is investigated by analyzing the spatial-temporal distribution of water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) and other PM2.5 components from 900 archived 24 h Teflon filters collected at 15 urban or rural EPA Federal Reference Method (FRM) network sites throughout 2007. Online measurements of WSOC at an urban/rural-paired site in Georgia in the summer of 2008 are contrasted to the filter data. Based on FRM filters, excluding biomass-burning events (levoglucosan < 50 ng m−3), WSOC and sulfate were highly correlated with PM2.5 mass and both comprised a large mass fraction of PM2.5 (13% and 35%, respectively). Sulfate and WSOC both tracked ambient temperature throughout the year, suggesting the temperature effects were mainly on the photochemical processes that lead to secondary formation. FRM WSOC, and to a lesser extent sulfate, were spatially homogeneous throughout the region, yet WSOC was moderately enhanced (27%) in locations of greater predicted isoprene emissions in summer. A Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) analysis identified two major source types for the summer WSOC; 22% of the WSOC were associated with ammonium sulfate, and 56% of the WSOC was associated with brown carbon and oxalate. A small urban excess of FRM WSOC (10%) was observed in the summer of 2007, however, comparisons of online WSOC measurements at one urban/rural pair (Atlanta/Yorkville) in August 2008 showed substantially greater difference in WSOC (31%) relative to the FRM data, suggesting a low bias for urban filters. The measured Atlanta urban excess, combined with the estimated boundary layer heights, gave an estimated Atlanta daily WSOC production rate in August of 0.55 mg C m−2 h−1 between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This study characterizes the regional nature of fine particles in the Southeastern US, confirming the importance of secondary organic aerosol and the roles of both biogenic and anthropogenic emissions.