Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 3097–3110, 2017

Special issue: Regional transport and transformation of air pollution in...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 3097–3110, 2017

Research article 28 Feb 2017

Research article | 28 Feb 2017

Classification of summertime synoptic patterns in Beijing and their associations with boundary layer structure affecting aerosol pollution

Yucong Miao1, Jianping Guo1, Shuhua Liu2, Huan Liu1, Zhanqing Li3,4, Wanchun Zhang1, and Panmao Zhai1 Yucong Miao et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather & Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry of CMA, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
  • 2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology & College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • 4Dept. of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences and ESSIC, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Abstract. Meteorological conditions within the planetary boundary layer (PBL) are closely governed by large-scale synoptic patterns and play important roles in air quality by directly and indirectly affecting the emission, transport, formation, and deposition of air pollutants. Partly due to the lack of long-term fine-resolution observations of the PBL, the relationships between synoptic patterns, PBL structure, and aerosol pollution in Beijing have not been well understood. This study applied the obliquely rotated principal component analysis in T-mode to classify the summertime synoptic conditions over Beijing using the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis from 2011 to 2014, and investigated their relationships with PBL structure and aerosol pollution by combining numerical simulations, measurements of surface meteorological variables, fine-resolution soundings, the concentration of particles with diameters less than or equal to 2.5 µm, total cloud cover (CLD), and reanalysis data. Among the seven identified synoptic patterns, three types accounted for 67 % of the total number of cases studied and were associated with heavy aerosol pollution events. These particular synoptic patterns were characterized by high-pressure systems located to the east or southeast of Beijing at the 925 hPa level, which blocked the air flow seaward, and southerly PBL winds that brought in polluted air from the southern industrial zone. The horizontal transport of pollutants induced by the synoptic forcings may be the most important factor affecting the air quality of Beijing in summer. In the vertical dimension, these three synoptic patterns featured a relatively low boundary layer height (BLH) in the afternoon, accompanied by high CLD and southerly cold advection from the seas within the PBL. The high CLD reduced the solar radiation reaching the surface, and suppressed the thermal turbulence, leading to lower BLH. Besides, the numerical sensitive experiments show that cold advection induced by the large-scale synoptic forcing may have cooled the PBL, leading to an increase in near-surface stability and a decrease in the BLH in the afternoon. Moreover, when warm advection appeared simultaneously above the top level of the PBL, the thermal inversion layer capping the PBL may have been strengthened, resulting in the further suppression of PBL and thus the deterioration of aerosol pollution levels. This study has important implications for understanding the crucial roles that meteorological factors (at both synoptic and local scales) play in modulating and forecasting aerosol pollution in Beijing and its surrounding area.

Short summary
Three synoptic patterns associated with heavy aerosol pollution in Beijing were identified using an objective classification approach. Relationships between synoptic patterns, aerosol pollution, and boundary layer height in Beijing during summer were revealed as well. Further, factors/mechanisms leading to the low BLHs in Beijing were unraveled. The key findings have implications for understanding the crucial roles that meteorological factors play in forecasting aerosol pollution in Beijing.
Final-revised paper