Measurements in urban Atlanta of transient aerosol events in which PM2.5 mass concentrations rapidly rise and fall over a period of 3-6 hr are reported. The data are based on new measurement techniques demonstrated at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Atlanta Supersite Experiment in August 1999. These independent instruments for aerosol chemical speciation of NO3-, SO4(2-), NH4+, and organic and elemental carbon (OC and EC), reconstructed the observed hourly dry PM2.5 mass to within 20% or better. Data from the experiment indicated that transient PM2.5 events were ubiquitous in Atlanta and were typically characterized by a sudden increase of EC (soot) and OC in the early morning or SO4(2-) in the late afternoon. The frequent temporal decoupling of these events provides insights into their origins, suggesting mobile sources in metro Atlanta as the main contributor to early morning PM2.5 and more regionally located point SO2 sources for afternoon PM2.5 events. The transient events may also have health implications. New data suggest that short-term PM2.5 exposures may lead to adverse health effects. Standard integrated filter-based techniques used in PM2.5 compliance monitoring networks and in most past PM2.5 epidemiologic studies collect samples over 24-hr periods and thus are unable to capture these transient events. Moreover, health-effects studies that focus on daily PM2.5 mass alone cannot evaluate the health implications of the unique and variable chemical properties of these episodes.