Atmospheric humic-like substances (HULIS) are important components of biomass-burning (BB) emissions and highly associated with light-absorbing organic aerosols (often referred to as brown carbon). This study highlights the importance of BB-emitted HULIS aerosols in peninsular Southeast Asian outflow to the subtropical western North Pacific. We determined various key light-absorbing characteristics of HULIS i.e. mass absorption cross-section (MACHULIS), absorbing component of the refractive index (kHULIS), and absorption Ångström exponent (AAEHULIS) based on ground-based aerosol light absorption measurements along with HULIS concentrations in springtime aerosols at Lulin Atmospheric Background Station (LABS; 2862 m above mean sea level), which is a representative high-altitude remote site in the western North Pacific. Daily variations of HULIS (0.58–12.92 μg m−3) at LABS were mostly linked with the influence from incoming air-masses, while correlations with BB tracers and secondary aerosols indicated the attribution of primary and secondary sources. Stronger light absorption capability of HULIS was clearly evident from MACHULIS and kHULIS values at 370 nm, which were about ~1.5 times higher during BB-dominated days (1.16 ± 0.75 m2 g−1 and 0.05 ± 0.03, respectively) than that during non-BB days (0.77 ± 0.89 m2 g−1 and 0.03 ± 0.04, respectively). Estimates from a simple radiative transfer model showed that HULIS absorption can add as much as 15.13 W g−1 to atmospheric warming, and ~46% more during BB-dominated than non-BB period, highlighting that HULIS light absorption may significantly affect the Earth–atmosphere system and tropospheric photochemistry over the western North Pacific.