Extreme haze episodes repeatedly shrouded Beijing during the winter of 2012–2013, causing major environmental and health problems. To better understand these extreme events, we performed a model-assisted analysis of the hourly observation data of PM2.5 and its major chemical compositions. The synthetic analysis shows that (1) the severe winter haze was driven by stable synoptic meteorological conditions over northeastern China, and not by an abrupt increase in anthropogenic emissions.