Aerosol particles are the major contributor to the deterioration of air quality in China’s capital, Beijing. Using ground-based sun photometer observations from 2005 to 2014, the long-term variations in optical properties and microphysical properties of aerosol in and around Beijing were investigated in this study. The results indicated little inter-annual variations in aerosol optic depth (AOD) but an increase in the fine mode AODs both in and outside Beijing. Furthermore, the single scattering albedo in urban Beijing is larger, while observations at the site that is southeast of Beijing suggested that the aerosol there has become more absorbing. The intra-annual aspects were as follow: The largest AOD and high amount of fine mode aerosols are observed in the summer. However, the result of air pollution index (API) that mainly affected by the dry density of near-surface aerosol indicated that the air quality has been improving since 2006. Winter and spring were the most polluted seasons considering only the API values. The inconsistency between AOD and API suggested that fine aerosol particles may have a more important role in the deterioration of air quality and that neglecting particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5
) in the calculation of API might not be appropriate in air quality evaluation. Through analysis of the aerosol properties in high API days, the results suggested that the fine mode aerosol, especially PM2.5
has become a major contributor to the aerosol pollution in Beijing.
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