Articles | Volume 16, issue 16
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 10369–10383, 2016
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 10369–10383, 2016

Research article 16 Aug 2016

Research article | 16 Aug 2016

Impacts of historical climate and land cover changes on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air quality in East Asia between 1980 and 2010

Yu Fu1, Amos P. K. Tai2, and Hong Liao3 Yu Fu et al.
  • 1Climate Change Research Center (CCRC), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China
  • 2Earth System Science Programme and Graduate Division of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Faulty of Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 3School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, Nanjing 210044, China

Abstract. To examine the effects of changes in climate, land cover and land use (LCLU), and anthropogenic emissions on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) between the 5-year periods 1981–1985 and 2007–2011 in East Asia, we perform a series of simulations using a global chemical transport model (GEOS-Chem) driven by assimilated meteorological data and a suite of land cover and land use data. Our results indicate that climate change alone could lead to a decrease in wintertime PM2.5 concentration by 4.0–12.0 µg m−3 in northern China, but to an increase in summertime PM2.5 by 6.0–8.0 µg m−3 in those regions. These changes are attributable to the changing chemistry and transport of all PM2.5 components driven by long-term trends in temperature, wind speed and mixing depth. The concentration of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is simulated to increase by 0.2–0.8 µg m−3 in both summer and winter in most regions of East Asia due to climate change alone, mostly reflecting higher biogenic volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions under warming. The impacts of LCLU change alone on PM2.5 (−2.1 to +1.3 µg m−3) are smaller than that of climate change, but among the various components the sensitivity of SOA and thus organic carbon to LCLU change (−0.4 to +1.2 µg m−3) is quite significant especially in summer, which is driven mostly by changes in biogenic VOC emissions following cropland expansion and changing vegetation density. The combined impacts show that while the effect of climate change on PM2.5 air quality is more pronounced, LCLU change could offset part of the climate effect in some regions but exacerbate it in others. As a result of both climate and LCLU changes combined, PM2.5 levels are estimated to change by −12.0 to +12.0 µg m−3 across East Asia between the two periods. Changes in anthropogenic emissions remain the largest contributor to deteriorating PM2.5 air quality in East Asia during the study period, but climate and LCLU changes could lead to a substantial modification of PM2.5 levels.

Short summary
The effects of climate change would partly counteract the emission-driven increase in PM2.5 in winter in most of eastern China, but exacerbate PM2.5 pollution in summer in North China Plain. Land cover and land use change might partially offset the increase in summertime PM2.5 but further enhance wintertime PM2.5 in the model by modifying the dry deposition of various PM2.5 precursors and biogenic volatile organic compound emissions, which also act as important factors in modulating air quality.
Final-revised paper