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Feedback effects of boundary-layer meteorological factors on cumulative explosive growth of PM<sub>2.5</sub> during winter heavy pollution episodes in Beijing from 2013 to 2016

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      Abstract

      <p><strong>Abstract.</strong> In January 2013, February 2014, December 2015 and December 2016 to 10 January 2017, 12 persistent heavy aerosol pollution episodes (HPEs) occurred in Beijing, which received special attention from the public. During the HPEs, the precise cause of PM<span class="inline-formula"><sub>2.5</sub></span> explosive growth (mass concentration at least doubled in several hours to 10 h) is uncertain. Here, we analyzed and estimated relative contributions of boundary-layer meteorological factors to such growth, using ground and vertical meteorological data. Beijing HPEs are generally characterized by the transport stage (TS), whose aerosol pollution formation is primarily caused by pollutants transported from the south of Beijing, and the cumulative stage (CS), in which the cumulative explosive growth of PM<span class="inline-formula"><sub>2.5</sub></span> mass is dominated by stable atmospheric stratification characteristics of southerly slight or calm winds, near-ground anomalous inversion, and moisture accumulation. During the CSs, observed southerly weak winds facilitate local pollutant accumulation by minimizing horizontal pollutant diffusion. Established by TSs, elevated PM<span class="inline-formula"><sub>2.5</sub></span> levels scatter more solar radiation back to space to reduce near-ground temperature, which very likely causes anomalous inversion. This surface cooling by PM<span class="inline-formula"><sub>2.5</sub></span> decreases near-ground saturation vapor pressure and increases relative humidity significantly; the inversion subsequently reduces vertical turbulent diffusion and boundary-layer height to trap pollutants and accumulate water vapor. Appreciable near-ground moisture accumulation (relative humidity&amp;gt; 80 %) would further enhance aerosol hygroscopic growth and accelerate liquid-phase and heterogeneous reactions, in which incompletely quantified chemical mechanisms need more investigation. The positive meteorological feedback noted on PM<span class="inline-formula"><sub>2.5</sub></span> mass explains over 70 % of cumulative explosive growth.</p>

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      Rapid industrialization and urbanization in developing countries has led to an increase in air pollution, along a similar trajectory to that previously experienced by the developed nations. In China, particulate pollution is a serious environmental problem that is influencing air quality, regional and global climates, and human health. In response to the extremely severe and persistent haze pollution experienced by about 800 million people during the first quarter of 2013 (refs 4, 5), the Chinese State Council announced its aim to reduce concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) by up to 25 per cent relative to 2012 levels by 2017 (ref. 6). Such efforts however require elucidation of the factors governing the abundance and composition of PM2.5, which remain poorly constrained in China. Here we combine a comprehensive set of novel and state-of-the-art offline analytical approaches and statistical techniques to investigate the chemical nature and sources of particulate matter at urban locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an during January 2013. We find that the severe haze pollution event was driven to a large extent by secondary aerosol formation, which contributed 30-77 per cent and 44-71 per cent (average for all four cities) of PM2.5 and of organic aerosol, respectively. On average, the contribution of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) and secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) are found to be of similar importance (SOA/SIA ratios range from 0.6 to 1.4). Our results suggest that, in addition to mitigating primary particulate emissions, reducing the emissions of secondary aerosol precursors from, for example, fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning is likely to be important for controlling China's PM2.5 levels and for reducing the environmental, economic and health impacts resulting from particulate pollution.
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          Elucidating severe urban haze formation in China.

          As the world's second largest economy, China has experienced severe haze pollution, with fine particulate matter (PM) recently reaching unprecedentedly high levels across many cities, and an understanding of the PM formation mechanism is critical in the development of efficient mediation policies to minimize its regional to global impacts. We demonstrate a periodic cycle of PM episodes in Beijing that is governed by meteorological conditions and characterized by two distinct aerosol formation processes of nucleation and growth, but with a small contribution from primary emissions and regional transport of particles. Nucleation consistently precedes a polluted period, producing a high number concentration of nano-sized particles under clean conditions. Accumulation of the particle mass concentration exceeding several hundred micrograms per cubic meter is accompanied by a continuous size growth from the nucleation-mode particles over multiple days to yield numerous larger particles, distinctive from the aerosol formation typically observed in other regions worldwide. The particle compositions in Beijing, on the other hand, exhibit a similarity to those commonly measured in many global areas, consistent with the chemical constituents dominated by secondary aerosol formation. Our results highlight that regulatory controls of gaseous emissions for volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides from local transportation and sulfur dioxide from regional industrial sources represent the key steps to reduce the urban PM level in China.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
            Atmos. Chem. Phys.
            Copernicus GmbH
            1680-7324
            2018
            January 10 2018
            : 18
            : 1
            : 247-258
            10.5194/acp-18-247-2018
            © 2018

            https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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