Atmospheric aerosols are responsible for adverse health effects and uncertain climate forcing. Depending on their composition, they can directly affect climate by scattering or absorbing solar radiation and they can also indirectly affect by serving as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). While the chemistry and physical properties of the inorganic components of the aerosols are more or less known, the same does not stand for the organic components. Hygroscopic water soluble organic material can enhance the water absorption of the particles, affecting their climate forcing. This dissertation explores the hygroscopic properties of atmospheric organic aerosol, the first part of the thesis is dedicated to the development and analysis of methods for the measurement of water soluble organic aerosol, while the second part investigates the hygroscopic properties and CCN activity of organic particulate matter emitted by different sources or produced in the atmosphere through oxidation of volatile organic compounds.