Aerosol type is a critical piece of information in both aerosol forcing estimation and passive satellite remote sensing. However, the major aerosol types in China and their variability is still less understood. This work uses direct sun measurements and inversion derived parameters from 47 sites within the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) in China, with more than 39,000 records obtained between April 1998 and January 2017, to identify dominant aerosol types using two independent methods, namely, K means and Self Organizing Map (SOM). In total, we define four aerosol types, namely, desert dust, scattering mixed, absorbing mixed and scattering fine, based on their optical and microphysical characteristics. Seasonally, dust aerosols mainly occur in the spring and over North and Northwest China; scattering mixed are more common in the spring and summer, whereas absorbing aerosols mostly occur in the autumn and winter during heating period, and scattering fine aerosols have their highest occurrence frequency in summer over East China. Based on their spatial and temporal distribution, we also generate seasonal aerosol type maps that can be used for passive satellite retrieval. Compared with the global models used in most satellite retrieval algorithms, the unique feature of East Asian aerosols is the curved single scattering albedo spectrum, which could be related to the mixing of black carbon with dust or organic aerosols.
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