Articles | Volume 15, issue 6
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 2969–2983, 2015
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 2969–2983, 2015

Research article 17 Mar 2015

Research article | 17 Mar 2015

Exploring the severe winter haze in Beijing: the impact of synoptic weather, regional transport and heterogeneous reactions

G. J. Zheng1, F. K. Duan1, H. Su2, Y. L. Ma1, Y. Cheng1, B. Zheng1, Q. Zhang3,6, T. Huang4, T. Kimoto4, D. Chang2, U. Pöschl2, Y. F. Cheng2, and K. B. He1,5,6 G. J. Zheng et al.
  • 1State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 2Multiphase Chemistry Department, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, 55128, Mainz, Germany
  • 3Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 4Kimoto Electric Co., Ltd, 3-1 Funahashi-cho Tennoji-ku, Osaka 543-0024, Japan
  • 5State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution Complex,Beijing 100084, China
  • 6Collaborative Innovation Center for Regional Environmental Quality, Beijing 100084, China

Abstract. Extreme haze episodes repeatedly shrouded Beijing during the winter of 2012–2013, causing major environmental and health problems. To better understand these extreme events, we performed a model-assisted analysis of the hourly observation data of PM2.5 and its major chemical compositions. The synthetic analysis shows that (1) the severe winter haze was driven by stable synoptic meteorological conditions over northeastern China, and not by an abrupt increase in anthropogenic emissions. (2) Secondary species, including organics, sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium, were the major constituents of PM2.5 during this period. (3) Due to the dimming effect of high loading of aerosol particles, gaseous oxidant concentrations decreased significantly, suggesting a reduced production of secondary aerosols through gas-phase reactions. Surprisingly, the observational data reveals an enhanced production rate of secondary aerosols, suggesting an important contribution from other formation pathways, most likely heterogeneous reactions. These reactions appeared to be more efficient in producing secondary inorganics aerosols than organic aerosols resulting in a strongly elevated fraction of inorganics during heavily polluted periods. (4) Moreover, we found that high aerosol concentration was a regional phenomenon. The accumulation process of aerosol particles occurred successively from cities southeast of Beijing. The apparent sharp increase in PM2.5 concentration of up to several hundred μg m−3 per hour recorded in Beijing represented rapid recovery from an interruption to the continuous pollution accumulation over the region, rather than purely local chemical production. This suggests that regional transport of pollutants played an important role during these severe pollution events.

Final-revised paper