Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling
15 May 2017

Dust-Wind Interactions Can Intensify Pollution in China

Researchers find that dust-wind interactions contribute to an increase in atmospheric particle concentrations over eastern China in winter.


During recent winters, eastern China has encountered heavy haze events with high atmospheric particle (aerosol) concentrations. Dust particles have a significant effect on wintertime pollution over China. These factors can combine to harm millions of people in China.


Recent increases in human-caused emissions—mainly from domestic heating, and industry and energy sectors—are the chief factor contributing to haze over eastern China. A study performed by a team of researchers that included scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) showed the influence of dust on winter haze over China. These findings have important implications for air quality studies.


East Asia, which includes the Gobi Desert and the highlands of northwestern China, is one of the world’s largest sources of dust emissions. Researchers used two 150-year pre-industrial simulations of the Community Earth System Model and a present-day simulation of the GEOS-Chem model to quantify the impact of dust-wind interactions on pollution over eastern China. The scientists found that decreases in dust emissions during years with decreased wind speed moderated the wintertime land-sea surface air temperature difference and further intensified air stagnation. These dust-wind interactions accounted for about 13 percent of the increase in aerosol concentrations over eastern China.

Lynn M. Russell
Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)