The distribution and trends of fog and haze in the North China Plain over the past 30 years
Abstract. Frequent low visibility, haze and fog events were found in the North China Plain (NCP). Data throughout the NCP during the past 30 years were examined to determine the horizontal distribution and decadal trends of low visibility, haze and fog events. The impact of meteorological factors such as wind and relative humidity (RH) on those events was investigated. Results reveal distinct distributions of haze and fog days, due to their different formation mechanisms. Low visibility, haze and fog days all display increasing trends of before 1995, a steady stage during the period 1995–2003 and a drastically drop thereafter. All three events occurred most frequently during the heating season. Benefiting from emission control measures, haze and fog both show decreasing trends in winter during the past 3 decades, while summertime haze displays continuous increasing trends. The distribution of wind speed and wind direction as well as the topography within the NCP has determinative impacts on the distribution of haze and fog. Weakened south-easterly winds in the southern part of the NCP have resulted in high pollutant concentrations and frequent haze events along the foot of the Taihang Mountains. The orographically generated boundary layer wind convergence line in the central area of the southern NCP is responsible for the frequent fog events in this region. Wind speed has been decreasing throughout the entire southern NCP, resulting in more stable atmospheric conditions and weaker dispersion abilities, calling for harder efforts to control emissions to prevent haze events. Haze events are strongly influenced by the ambient RH. RH values associated with haze days are evidently increasing, suggesting that an increasing fraction of haze events are caused by the hygroscopic growth of aerosols, rather than simply by high aerosol loadings.