Severe Pollution in China Amplified by Atmospheric Moisture

Xuexi Tie, Ru-Jin Huang, Junji Cao, Qiang Zhang, Yafang Cheng, Hang Su, Di Chang, Ulrich Poeschl, Thorsten Hoffmann, Uli Dusek, Guohui Li, Douglas R. Worsnop, Colin D. O'Dowd

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90 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

In recent years, severe haze events often occurred in China, causing serious environmental problems. The mechanisms responsible for the haze formation, however, are still not well understood, hindering the forecast and mitigation of haze pollution. Our study of the 2012-13 winter haze events in Beijing shows that atmospheric water vapour plays a critical role in enhancing the heavy haze events. Under weak solar radiation and stagnant moist meteorological conditions in winter, air pollutants and water vapour accumulate in a shallow planetary boundary layer (PBL). A positive feedback cycle is triggered resulting in the formation of heavy haze: (1) the dispersal of water vapour is constrained by the shallow PBL, leading to an increase in relative humidity (RH); (2) the high RH induces an increase of aerosol particle size by enhanced hygroscopic growth and multiphase reactions to increase particle size and mass, which results in (3) further dimming and decrease of PBL height, and thus further depressing of aerosol and water vapour in a very shallow PBL. This positive feedback constitutes a self-amplification mechanism in which water vapour leads to a trapping and massive increase of particulate matter in the near-surface air to which people are exposed with severe health hazards.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15760
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17-Nov-2017

Keywords

  • PLANETARY BOUNDARY-LAYER
  • PEARL RIVER-DELTA
  • AEROSOL OPTICAL-PROPERTIES
  • HAZE
  • PARTICLES
  • CLIMATE
  • XINKEN
  • IMPACT
  • MODEL
  • AIR

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