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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 18 Sep 2018

Research article | 18 Sep 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript was accepted for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Effect of climate change on winter haze pollution in Beijing: uncertain and likely small

Lu Shen1, Daniel J. Jacob1, Loretta J. Mickley1, Yuxuan Wang2,3, and Qiang Zhang3 Lu Shen et al.
  • 1School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 2Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
  • 3Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Abstract. Several recent studies have suggested that 21st-century climate change will significantly worsen the meteorological conditions leading to very high concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Beijing in winter (Beijing haze). We find that 81% of the variance in observed monthly PM2.5 during 2010–2017 winters can be explained by a single meteorological mode, the first principal component (PC1) of the 850hPa meridional wind velocity (V850) and relative humidity (RH). V850 and RH drive stagnation and chemical production of PM2.5, respectively, and thus have a clear causal link to Beijing haze. PC1 explains more of the variance in PM2.5 than either V850 or RH. Using additional meteorological variables does not explain more of the variance in PM2.5. Therefore PC1 can serve as a proxy for Beijing haze in the interpretation of long-term climate records and in future climate projections. Previous studies suggested that shrinking Arctic sea ice would worsen winter haze conditions in eastern China, but we show with the PC1 proxy that Beijing haze is correlated with a dipole structure in the Arctic sea ice rather than with the total amount of sea ice. Beijing haze is also correlated with dipole patterns in Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs). We find that these dipole patterns of Arctic sea ice and Pacific SSTs shift and change sign on interdecadal scales, so that they cannot be used reliably as future predictors for the haze. Future 21st-century trends of the PC1 haze proxy computed from the CMIP5 ensemble of climate models are overall very small and variable in sign. We thus find no evidence for a significant effect of climate change on Beijing haze.

Lu Shen et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Lu Shen et al.
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