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China’s Haze Tied to Climate Change

A city scene in China taken from a high building showing a few buildings visible through a severe atmospheric haze with many more buildings barely visible in the background

Modeling and data analysis done by Georgia Tech researchers suggest that changes in sea ice and snowfall have shifted China’s winter monsoon, helping to create stagnant atmospheric conditions that trap pollution over the country’s major population and ­industrial centers.

By John Toon

China’s severe winter air pollution may be worsened by changes in atmospheric circulation prompted by Arctic sea ice loss and increased Eurasian snowfall — both caused by global climate change.

Modeling and data analysis done by Georgia Tech researchers suggest that the sea ice and snowfall changes have shifted China’s winter monsoon, helping to create stagnant atmospheric conditions that trap pollution over the country’s major population and industrial centers. Those changes in regional atmospheric conditions are frustrating efforts to address pollution through emission controls.

“Emissions in China have been decreasing over the last four years, but the severe winter haze is not getting better,” said Yuhang Wang, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Mostly, that’s because of a very rapid change in the high polar regions where sea ice is decreasing and snowfall is increasing. This perturbation keeps cold air from getting into the eastern parts of China where it would flush out the air pollution.”

Reported in the journal Science Advances, the research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Related: China's Severe Winter Haze Tied to Climate Change, March 15, 2017

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