- Snow serves as a vital scavenging mechanism to gas-phase and particle-phase organic nitrogen substances in the atmosphere, providing a significant link between land-atmosphere flux of nitrogen in the surface-earth system. Here, we used optical instruments (UV-vis and excitation-emission matrix fluorescence) and a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer (FT-ICR MS) to elucidate the molecular composition and potential precursors of snow samples collected simultaneously at four megacities in North China. The elemental O/N ratio (≥3), together with the preference in the negative ionization mode, indicates that the one and two nitrogen atom-containing organics (CHON1 and CHON2) in snow were largely in the oxidized form (as organic nitrates, -ONO2). This study assumed that scavenging of particle-phase and gas-phase organic nitrates might be significant sources of CHON in precipitation. A gas-phase oxidation process and a particle-phase hydrolysis process, at a molecular level, were used to trace the potential precursors of CHON. Results show that more than half of the snow CHON molecules may be related to the oxidized and hydrolyzed processes of atmospheric organics. Potential formation processes of atmospheric organics on a molecular level provide a new concept to better understand the sources and scavenging mechanisms of organic nitrogen species in the atmosphere.