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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 03 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Worsening urban ozone pollution in China from 2013 to 2017 – Part 2: The effects of emission changes and implications for multi-pollutant control

Yiming Liu and Tao Wang Yiming Liu and Tao Wang
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, 999077, China

Abstract. The Chinese government launched the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan in 2013, and various stringent measures have since been implemented, which have resulted in significant decreases in emissions and ambient concentrations of primary pollutants such as SO2, NOx, and particulate matter (PM). However, surface ozone (O3) concentrations have still been increasing in urban areas across the country. In a previous analysis, we examined in detail the roles of meteorological variation during 2013–2017 in the summertime surface O3 trend in various regions of China. In this study, we evaluated the effect of changes in multi-pollutant emissions from anthropogenic activities on O3 concentrations during the same period, by using an up-to-date regional chemical transport model (WRF-CMAQ) driven by an interannual anthropogenic emission inventory. The CMAQ model was improved with regard to heterogeneous reactions of reactive gases on aerosol surfaces, which led to better model performance in reproducing the ambient concentrations of those gases. The model simulations showed that the maximum daily 8-hour average (MDA8) O3 concentration in urban areas increased by 0.46 ppbv per year (ppbv a-1) (p = 0.001) from 2013 to 2017. In contrast, a slight decrease in MDA8 O3 concentrations by 0.17 ppbv a-1 (p = 0.005) in rural areas was predicted, mainly attributable to the NOx emission reduction. The effects of changes in individual pollutant emissions on O3 were also simulated. The reduction of NOx emission increased the O3 concentration in urban areas due to the non-linear NOx-volatile organic compound (VOC) chemistry and decreasing aerosol effects; the slight increase in VOCs emissions enhanced the O3 concentrations; the reduction of PM emissions increased the O3 concentrations by enhancing the photolysis rates and reducing the loss of reactive gases on aerosol surfaces; and the reduction of SO2 emissions resulted in a drastic decrease in sulfate concentrations, which increased the O3 concentrations through aerosol effects. In contrast to the unfavorable effect of the above changes in pollutant emissions on efforts to reduce surface concentrations of O3, the reduction of CO emissions did help to decrease the O3 concentrations in recent years. The dominant cause of increasing O3 concentrations due to changes in anthropogenic emission varied geographically. In Beijing, NOx and PM emission reductions were the two largest causes of the O3 increase; in Shanghai, the reduction of NOx and increase in VOC emissions were the two major causes; in Guangzhou, NOx reduction was the primary cause; and in Chengdu, the PM and SO2 emission decreases contributed most to the O3 concentration increase. Regarding the effects of decreasing concentrations of aerosols, the drop in heterogeneous uptake of reactive gases – mainly HO2 and O3 – was found to be more important than the increase in photolysis rates. The adverse effect of the reductions of NOx, SO2, and PM emissions on O3 abatement in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu would have been avoided if the anthropogenic VOCs emission had been reduced by 24 %, 23 %, 20 %, and 16 %, respectively, from 2013 to 2017. Our analysis revealed that the NOx reduction in recent years has helped to contain the total O3 production in China. However, to reduce O3 concentrations in major urban and industrial areas, VOCs emissions control should be added to the current NOx-SO2-PM policy.

Yiming Liu and Tao Wang

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Status: open (until 30 Mar 2020)
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Yiming Liu and Tao Wang

Yiming Liu and Tao Wang


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Latest update: 18 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Surface ozone levels in urban areas of China were increasing despite the implementation of stringent emission control measures since 2013. Our modeling results showed that the decrease in NOx, SO2, and PM emissions and increase in VOCs emission contributed to the urban ozone increases due to the non-linear ozone chemistry and complex aerosol affects. VOCs reduction measures should be implemented in the current and future policies to achieve the goal of improving the overall air quality.
Surface ozone levels in urban areas of China were increasing despite the implementation of...