PM2.5 Pollution in China and How It Has Been Exacerbated by Terrain and Meteorological Conditions

Wang, Xiaoyan ; Dickinson, Robert E. ; Su, Liangyuan ; Zhou, Chunlüe ; Wang, Kaicun

Année de publication
The recent severe and frequent PM2.5 (i.e., fine particles smaller than 2.5 µm) pollution in China has aroused unprecedented public concern. The first two years of PM2.5 measurements in China are reported and compared with those of Europe and the United States. The average PM2.5 concentration in China is approximately 5 times that over Europe and America. The contribution of atmospheric dispersion to such air quality is evaluated in this study. Air stagnation or its absence is a good indicator of the atmosphere's capability to disperse its pollutants, but the NOAA definition of an air stagnation event is found to not be applicable to China since it depends on vertical mixing that is weakened in China by the effects of terrain. To address this deficiency, a new threshold for air stagnation events is proposed that depends on the 10-m wind speed, boundary layer height, and occurrence of precipitation. This newly defined air stagnation closely tracks the day-to-day variation of PM2.5 concentrations. Such events are more frequent over China than over Europe and the United States during autumn and winter, especially over the Sichuan basin and Jing-Jin-Ji region of China. If China had the same frequency of air stagnation as the United States or Europe, 67% and 82% of its stations would improve their current air quality during autumn and winter (e.g., an average of 12% decrease in PM2.5 concentrations for the Jing-Jin-Ji region in wintertime). Its severe pollution and frequent air stagnation conditions make controls on emission less effective in China than elsewhere.

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