Non-refractory submicron aerosol (NR-PM1) species measured by an Aerodyne Aerosol Chemical Speciation Monitor (ACSM) along with collocated gaseous species are used to investigate the impacts of relative humidity (RH) on aerosol composition and evolution processes during wintertime in Beijing, China. Aerosol species exhibit strong, yet different RH dependence between low and high RH levels. At low RH levels (50%), sulfate presents an even faster increasing rate, indicating the significant impact of liquid water on sulfate production. The RH dependence of organic aerosol (OA) components is also quite different. Among OA components, coal combustion OA (CCOA) presents the largest enhancement in both mass concentration and contribution as a function of RH. Our results elucidate the important roles of liquid water in aerosol processing at elevated RH levels, in particular affecting sulfate and CCOA via aqueous-phase reaction and gas-particle partitioning associated with water uptake, respectively. It is estimated that aqueous-phase processing can contribute more than 50% of secondary inorganic species production along with an increase of aerosol particle acidity during the fog periods. However, it appears not to significantly enhance secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation and the oxidation degree of OA. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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