Ambient sampling for the Pittsburgh Air Quality Study (PAQS) was conducted from July 2001 to September 2002. The study was designed (1) to characterize particulate matter (PM) by examination of size, surface area, and volume distribution, chemical composition as a function of size and on a single particle basis, morphology, and temporal and spatial variability in the Pittsburgh region; (2) to quantify the impact of the various sources (transportation, power plants, biogenic sources, etc.) on the aerosol concentrations in the area; and (3) to develop and evaluate the next generation of atmospheric aerosol monitoring and modeling techniques. The PAQS objectives, study design, site descriptions and routine and intensive measurements are presented. Special study days are highlighted, including those associated with elevated concentrations of daily average PM2.5 mass. Monthly average and diurnal patterns in aerosol number concentration, and aerosol nitrate, sulfate, elemental carbon, and organic carbon concentrations, light scattering as well as gas-phase ozone, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide are discussed with emphasis on the processes affecting them. Preliminary findings reveal day-to-day variability in aerosol mass and composition, but consistencies in seasonal average diurnal profiles and concentrations. For example, the seasonal average variations in the diurnal PM2.5 mass were predominately driven by the sulfate component. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.