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Background arctic aerosol properties generally observed during the summer were studied at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard in a six-week campaign where the aerosol size distribution and chemical composition were measured. The results presented here demonstrate the marked difference between the background arctic aerosol composition in comparison to the aged aerosol arriving in the area by long-range transport from southern latitudes. It is found that sulphate is the major water-soluble component of background aerosol followed by sea salt. Aged aerosol arriving in the Arctic from polluted areas is recognised by an increase in black carbon and in the refractory aerosol fraction.