McElroy, Michael B.

Minghao Zhuang, Xi Lu, Wei Peng, Yanfen Wang, Jianxiao Wang, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Opportunities for household energy on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 144, July 2021, Pp. 110982. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Approximately seven million population in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of China, a global climate sensitive region, still rely primarily on yak dung for household cooking and heating. The treatment and combustion of yak dung result in a variety of negative impacts in terms of local alpine grassland degradation, indoor air pollution, public health risk, as well as global climate change. There is an urgent need to explore alternative pathway for affordable and clean energy as indicated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. This perspective has analyzed the key challenges rooted in yak dung use on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region. Based on this, this perspective has further proposed a new complementary energy system to take advantage of locally available, clean and sustainable energy sources of wind and solar power, and have provided economic analyses. Meanwhile, this perspective has pointed out the potential barriers to promoting the new complementary energy system in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region due to traditional habits, economic factors and policies. Finally, strategies for transitioning from yak dung to the proposed alternative energy system is discussed at the end. Successful energy transition for the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region offers an important option to achieving many other sustainable development goals related to climate change, economic development, and environment. The perspective is expected to shed light on the development of sustainable energy in other developing region or countries in the world to address multiple societal goals.
Haiyang Lin, Qiuwei Wu, Xinyu Chen, Xi Yang, Xinyang Guo, Jiajun Lv, Tianguang Lu, Shaojie Song, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Economic and technological feasibility of using power-to-hydrogen technology under higher wind penetration in China.” Renewable Energy, 173, Pp. 569-580. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Hydrogen can play a key role in facilitating the transition to a future deeply decarbonized energy system and can help accommodate higher penetrations of renewables in the power system. Arguments to justify this conclusion are supported by an analysis based on real-world data from China’s Western Inner Mongolia (WIM). The economic feasibility and decarbonization potential of renewable-based hydrogen production are discussed through an integrated power-hydrogen-emission analytical framework. The framework combines a high-resolution wind resource analysis with hourly simulation for the operation of power systems and hydrogen production considering technical and economic specifications on selection of three different types of electrolyzers and two operating modes. The results indicate that using wind power to produce hydrogen could provide a cost-competitive alternative (<2 $kg-1) to WIM’s current coal-dominated hydrogen manufacturing system, contributing at the same time to important reductions in wind curtailment and CO2 emissions. The levelized cost for hydrogen production is projected to decrease in the coming decade consistent with increases in wind power capacity and decreases in capital costs for electrolyzers. Lessons learned from the study can be applied to other regions and countries to explore possibilities for larger scale economically justified and carbon saving hydrogen production with renewables.
Shaojie Song, Tao Ma, Yuzhong Zhang, Lu Shen, Pengfei Liu, Ke Li, Shixian Zhai, Haotian Zheng, Meng Gao, Jonathan M. Moch, Fengkui Duan, Kebin He, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Global modeling of heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate chemistry.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21, 1, Pp. 457–481. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) has recently been identified as an abundant organosulfur compound in aerosols during winter haze episodes in northern China. It has also been detected in other regions although the concentrations are low. Because of the sparse field measurements, the global significance of HMS and its spatial and seasonal patterns remain unclear. Here, we modify and add to the implementation of HMS chemistry in the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model and conduct multiple global simulations. The model accounts for cloud entrainment and gas–aqueous mass transfer within the rate expressions for heterogeneous sulfur chemistry. Our simulations can generally reproduce quantitative HMS observations from Beijing and show that East Asia has the highest HMS concentration, followed by Europe and North America. The simulated HMS shows a seasonal pattern with higher values in the colder period. Photochemical oxidizing capacity affects the competition of formaldehyde with oxidants (such as ozone and hydrogen peroxide) for sulfur dioxide and is a key factor influencing the seasonality of HMS. The highest average HMS concentration (1–3 µg m−3) and HMS ∕ sulfate molar ratio (0.1–0.2) are found in northern China in winter. The simulations suggest that aqueous clouds act as the major medium for HMS chemistry while aerosol liquid water may play a role if its rate constant for HMS formation is greatly enhanced compared to cloud water.
Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Xinyu Chen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Projected changes in wind power potential over China and India in high resolution climate models.” Environmental Research Letters, 16, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As more countries commit to emissions reductions by midcentury to curb anthropogenic climate change, decarbonization of the electricity sector becomes a first-order task in reaching this goal. Renewables, particularly wind and solar power, will be predominant components of this transition. How availability of the wind and solar resource will change in the future in response to regional climate changes is an important and underdiscussed topic of the decarbonization process. Here, we study changes in potential for wind power in China and India, evaluating prospectively until the year 2060. To do this, we study a downscaled, high-resolution multimodel ensemble of CMIP5 models under high and low emissions scenarios. While there is some intermodel variability, we find that spatial changes are generally consistent across models, with decreases of up to 965 (a 1% change) and 186 TWh (a 2% change) in annual electricity generation potential for China and India, respectively. Compensating for the declining resource are weakened seasonal and diurnal variabilities, allowing for easier large-scale wind power integration. We conclude that while the ensemble indicates available wind resource over China and India will decline slightly in the future, there remains enormous potential for significant wind power expansion, which must play a major role in carbon neutral aspirations.
Qing Yang, Hewen Zhou, Pietro Bartocci, Francesco Fantozzi, Ondřej Mašek, Foster Agblevor, Zhiyu Wei, Haiping Yang, Hanping Chen, Xi Lu, Guoqian Chen, Chuguang Zheng, Chris Nielsen, and Michael McElroy. 2021. “Prospective contributions of biomass pyrolysis to China’s 2050 carbon reduction and renewable energy goals.” Nature Communications. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deployment of negative emission technologies needs to start immediately if we are to avoid overshooting international carbon targets, reduce negative climate impacts, and minimize costs of emission mitigation. Actions in China, given its importance for the global anthropogenic carbon budget, can be decisive. While bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) may need years to mature, this study focuses on developing a ready-to-implement biomass intermediate pyrolysis poly-generation (BIPP) technology to produce a potentially stable form of biochar, a medium for carbon storage, and to provide a significant source of valuable biofuels, especially pyrolysis gas. Combining the experimental data with hybrid models, the results show that a BIPP system can be profitable without subsidies: its national deployment could contribute to a 68% reduction of carbon emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 compared to 2005 and could result additionally in a reduction in air pollutant emissions. With 73% of national crop residues converted to biochar and other biofuels in the near term (2020 to 2030), the cumulative greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction could reach up to 5653 Mt CO2-eq by 2050, which could contribute 9-20% of the global GHG emission reduction goal for BECCS (28-65 Gt CO2-eq in IPCC’s 1.5 °C pathway), and nearly 2633 Mt more than that projected for BECCS alone. The national BIPP development strategy is developed on a provincial scale based on a regional economic and life-cycle analysis. 
Tianguang Lu, Xinyu Chen, Michael B. McElroy, Chris Nielsen, Wu Qiuwei, Hongying He, and Qian Ai. 2021. “A reinforcement learning-based decision system for electricity pricing plan selection by smart grid end users.” IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 1949-3061 . Publisher's VersionAbstract
With the development of deregulated retail power markets, it is possible for end users equipped with smart meters and controllers to optimize their consumption cost portfolios by choosing various pricing plans from different retail electricity companies. This paper proposes a reinforcement learning-based decision system for assisting the selection of electricity pricing plans, which can minimize the electricity payment and consumption dissatisfaction for individual smart grid end user. The decision problem is modeled as a transition probability-free Markov decision process (MDP) with improved state framework. The proposed problem is solved using a Kernel approximator-integrated batch Q-learning algorithm, where some modifications of sampling and data representation are made to improve the computational and prediction performance. The proposed algorithm can extract the hidden features behind the time-varying pricing plans from a continuous high-dimensional state space. Case studies are based on data from real-world historical pricing plans and the optimal decision policy is learned without a priori information about the market environment. Results of several experiments demonstrate that the proposed decision model can construct a precise predictive policy for individual user, effectively reducing their cost and energy consumption dissatisfaction.
Peter Sherman, Meng Gao, Shaojie Song, Alex T. Archibald, Nathan Luke Abraham, Jean-François Lamarque, Drew Shindell, Gregory Faluvegi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2021. “Sensitivity of modeled Indian Monsoon to Chinese and Indian aerosol emissions.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 21, Pp. 3593–3605. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The South Asian summer monsoon supplies over 80 % of India's precipitation. Industrialization over the past few decades has resulted in severe aerosol pollution in India. Understanding monsoonal sensitivity to aerosol emissions in general circulation models (GCMs) could improve predictability of observed future precipitation changes. The aims here are (1) to assess the role of aerosols on India's monsoon precipitation and (2) to determine the roles of local and regional emissions. For (1), we study the Precipitation Driver Response Model Intercomparison Project experiments. We find that the precipitation response to changes in black carbon is highly uncertain with a large intermodel spread due in part to model differences in simulating changes in cloud vertical profiles. Effects from sulfate are clearer; increased sulfate reduces Indian precipitation, a consistency through all of the models studied here. For (2), we study bespoke simulations, with reduced Chinese and/or Indian emissions in three GCMs. A significant increase in precipitation (up to ~ 20 %) is found only when both countries' sulfur emissions are regulated, which has been driven in large part by dynamic shifts in the location of convective regions in India. These changes have the potential to restore a portion of the precipitation losses induced by sulfate forcing over the last few decades.
Meng Gao, Zirui Liu, Bo Zheng, Dongsheng Ji, Peter Sherman, Shaojie Song, Jinyuan Xin, Cheng Liu, Yuesi Wang, Qiang Zhang, Jia Xing, Jingkun Jiang, Zifa Wang, Gregory R. Carmichael, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “China's emission control strategies have suppressed unfavorable influences of climate on wintertime PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing since 2002.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 3, Pp. 1497-1505. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Severe wintertime PM2.5 pollution in Beijing has been receiving increasing worldwide attention, yet the decadal variations remain relatively unexplored. Combining field measurements and model simulations, we quantified the relative influences of anthropogenic emissions and meteorological conditions on PM2.5 concentrations in Beijing over the winters of 2002–2016. Between the winters of 2011 and 2016, stringent emission control measures resulted in a 21 % decrease in mean mass concentrations of PM2.5 in Beijing, with 7 fewer haze days per winter on average. Given the overestimation of PM2.5 by the model, the effectiveness of stringent emission control measures might have been slightly overstated. With fixed emissions, meteorological conditions over the study period would have led to an increase in haze in Beijing, but the strict emission control measures have suppressed the unfavorable influences of the recent climate. The unfavorable meteorological conditions are attributed to the weakening of the East Asia winter monsoon associated particularly with an increase in pressure associated with the Aleutian Low.
Haotian Zheng, Shaojie Song, Golam Sarwar, Masao Gen, Shuxiao Wang, Dian Ding, Xing Chang, Shuping Zhang, Jia Xing, Yele Sun, Dongsheng Ji, Chak Chan, Jian Gao, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Contribution of particulate nitrate photolysis to heterogeneous sulfate formation for winter haze in China.” Environmental Science & Technology Letters , 7, 9, Pp. 632–638. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Nitrate and sulfate are two key components of airborne particulate matter (PM). While multiple formation mechanisms have been proposed for sulfate, current air quality models commonly underestimate its concentrations and mass fractions during northern China winter haze events. On the other hand, current models usually overestimate the mass fractions of nitrate. Very recently, laboratory studies have proposed that nitrous acid (N(III)) produced by particulate nitrate photolysis can oxidize sulfur dioxide to produce sulfate. Here, for the first time, we parameterize this heterogeneous mechanism into the state-of-the-art Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) model and quantify its contributions to sulfate formation. We find that the significance of this mechanism mainly depends on the enhancement effects (by 1–3 orders of magnitude as suggested by the available experimental studies) of nitrate photolysis rate constants in aerosol liquid water compared to that in the gas phase. Comparisons between model simulations and in-situ observations in Beijing suggest that this pathway can explain about 15% (assuming an enhancement factor (EF) of 10) to 65% (assuming EF = 100) of the model–observation gaps in sulfate concentrations during winter haze. Our study strongly calls for future research on reducing the uncertainty in EF.
Archana Dayalu, J. William Munger, Yuxuan Wang, Steven C. Wofsy, Yu Zhao, Thomas Nehrkorn, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, and Rachel Chang. 2020. “Evaluating China's anthropogenic CO2 emissions inventories: a northern China case study using continuous surface observations from 2005 to 2009.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China has pledged reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 %–65 % relative to 2005 levels, and to peak carbon emissions overall by 2030. However, the lack of observational data and disagreement among the many available inventories makes it difficult for China to track progress toward these goals and evaluate the efficacy of control measures. To demonstrate the value of atmospheric observations for constraining CO2 inventories we track the ability of CO2 concentrations predicted from three different CO2 inventories to match a unique multi-year continuous record of atmospheric CO2. Our analysis time window includes the key commitment period for the Paris Agreement (2005) and the Beijing Olympics (2008). One inventory is China-specific and two are spatial subsets of global inventories. The inventories differ in spatial resolution, basis in national or subnational statistics, and reliance on global or China-specific emission factors. We use a unique set of historical atmospheric observations from 2005 to 2009 to evaluate the three CO2 emissions inventories within China's heavily industrialized and populated northern region accounting for ∼33 %–41 % of national emissions. Each anthropogenic inventory is combined with estimates of biogenic CO2 within a high-resolution atmospheric transport framework to model the time series of CO2 observations. To convert the model–observation mismatch from mixing ratio to mass emission rates we distribute it over a region encompassing 90 % of the total surface influence in seasonal (annual) averaged back-trajectory footprints (L_0.90 region). The L_0.90 region roughly corresponds to northern China. Except for the peak growing season, where assessment of anthropogenic emissions is entangled with the strong vegetation signal, we find the China-specific inventory based on subnational data and domestic field studies agrees significantly better with observations than the global inventories at all timescales. Averaged over the study time period, the unscaled China-specific inventory reports substantially larger annual emissions for northern China (30 %) and China as a whole (20 %) than the two unscaled global inventories. Our results, exploiting a robust time series of continuous observations, lend support to the rates and geographic distribution in the China-specific inventory Though even long-term observations at a single site reveal differences among inventories, exploring inventory discrepancy over all of China requires a denser observational network in future efforts to measure and verify CO2 emissions for China both regionally and nationally. We find that carbon intensity in the northern China region has decreased by 47 % from 2005 to 2009, from approximately 4 kg of CO2 per USD (note that all references to USD in this paper refer to USD adjusted for purchasing power parity, PPP) in 2005 to about 2 kg of CO2 per USD in 2009 (Fig. 9c). However, the corresponding 18 % increase in absolute emissions over the same time period affirms a critical point that carbon intensity targets in emerging economies can be at odds with making real climate progress. Our results provide an important quantification of model–observation mismatch, supporting the increased use and development of China-specific inventories in tracking China's progress as a whole towards reducing emissions. We emphasize that this work presents a methodology for extending the analysis to other inventories and is intended to be a comparison of a subset of anthropogenic CO2 emissions rates from inventories that were readily available at the time this research began. For this study's analysis time period, there was not enough spatially distinct observational data to conduct an optimization of the inventories. The primary intent of the comparisons presented here is not to judge specific inventories, but to demonstrate that even a single site with a long record of high-time-resolution observations can identify major differences among inventories that manifest as biases in the model–data comparison. This study provides a baseline analysis for evaluating emissions from a small but important region within China, as well a guide for determining optimal locations for future ground-based measurement sites.
Peter Sherman, Eli Tziperman, Clara Deser, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Historical and future roles of internal atmospheric variability in modulating summertime Greenland Ice Sheet melt.” Geophysical Research Letters, 47, 6. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Understanding how internal atmospheric variability affects Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) summertime melting would improve understanding of future sea level rise. We analyze the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble (CESM‐LE) over 1951‐2000 and 2051‐2100. We find that internal variability dominates the forced response on short timescales (~20 years) and that the area impacted by internal variability grows in the future, connecting internal variability and climate change. Unlike prior studies, we do not assume specific patterns of internal variability to affect GrIS melting, but derive them from Maximum Covariance Analysis. We find that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is the major source of internal atmospheric variability associated with GrIS melt conditions in CESM‐LE and reanalysis, with the positive phase (NAO+) linked to widespread cooling over the ice sheet. CESM‐LE and CMIP5 project an increase in the frequency of NAO+ events, suggesting a negative feedback to the GrIS under future climate change.
Tianguang Lu, Peter Sherman, Xinyu Chen, Shi Chen, Xi Lu, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “India’s potential for integrating solar and on- and offshore wind power into its energy system.” Nature Communications, 11, 4750. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper considers options for a future Indian power economy in which renewables, wind and solar, could meet 80% of anticipated 2040 power demand supplanting the country’s current reliance on coal. Using a cost optimization model, here we show that renewables could provide a source of power cheaper or at least competitive with what could be supplied using fossil-based alternatives. The ancillary advantage would be a significant reduction in India’s future power sector related emissions of CO2. Using a model in which prices for wind turbines and solar PV systems are assumed to continue their current decreasing trend, we conclude that an investment in renewables at a level consistent with meeting 80% of projected 2040 power demand could result in a reduction of 85% in emissions of CO2 relative to what might be expected if the power sector were to continue its current coal dominated trajectory.
Peter Sherman, Xinyu Chen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Offshore wind: an opportunity for cost-competitive decarbonization of China’s energy economy.” Science Advances, 6, 8, Pp. eaax9571. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China has reduced growth in its emissions of greenhouse gases, success attributable in part due to major investments in onshore wind. By comparison, investments in offshore wind have been minor, limited until recently largely by perceptions of cost. Assimilated meteorological data are used here to assess future offshore wind potential for China. Analysis on a provincial basis indicates that the aggregate potential wind resource is 5.4 times larger than current coastal demand for power. Recent experiences with markets both in Europe and the US suggest that potential offshore resources in China could be exploited to cost-competitively provide 1148.3 TWh of energy in a high-cost scenario, 6383.4 TWh in a low-cost option, equivalent to between 36% and 200% of the total coastal energy demand post 2020. The analysis underscores significant benefits for offshore wind for China, with prospects for major reductions greenhouse emissions with ancillary benefits for air quality.
Meng Gao, Jinhui Gao, Bin Zhu, Rajesh Kumar, Xiao Lu, Shaojie Song, Yuzhong Zhang, Beixi Jia, Peng Wang, Gufran Beig, Jianlin Hu, Qi Ying, Hongliang Zhang, Peter Sherman, and Michael B. McElroy. 2020. “Ozone pollution over China and India: seasonality and sources.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 20, 7, Pp. 4399-4414. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A regional fully coupled meteorology–chemistry model, Weather Research and Forecasting model with Chemistry (WRF-Chem), was employed to study the seasonality of ozone (O3) pollution and its sources in both China and India. Observations and model results suggest that O3 in the North China Plain (NCP), Yangtze River Delta (YRD), Pearl River Delta (PRD), and India exhibit distinctive seasonal features, which are linked to the influence of summer monsoons. Through a factor separation approach, we examined the sensitivity of O3 to individual anthropogenic, biogenic, and biomass burning emissions. We found that summer O3 formation in China is more sensitive to industrial and biogenic sources than to other source sectors, while the transportation and biogenic sources are more important in all seasons for India. Tagged simulations suggest that local sources play an important role in the formation of the summer O3 peak in the NCP, but sources from Northwest China should not be neglected to control summer O3 in the NCP. For the YRD region, prevailing winds and cleaner air from the ocean in summer lead to reduced transport from polluted regions, and the major source region in addition to local sources is Southeast China. For the PRD region, the upwind region is replaced by contributions from polluted PRD as autumn approaches, leading to an autumn peak. The major upwind regions in autumn for the PRD are YRD (11 %) and Southeast China (10 %). For India, sources in North India are more important than sources in the south. These analyses emphasize the relative importance of source sectors and regions as they change with seasons, providing important implications for O3 control strategies.
China’s CO2 peak before 2030 implied from diverse characteristics and growth of cities
Haikun Wang, Xi Lu, Yu Deng, Yaoguang Sun, Chris P. Nielsen, Yifan Liu, Ge Zhu, Maoliang Bu, Jun Bi, and Michael B. McElroy. 2019. “China’s CO2 peak before 2030 implied from diverse characteristics and growth of cities.” Nature Sustainability, 2, Pp. 748–754. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China pledges to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 or sooner under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C or less by the end of the century. By examining CO2 emissions from 50 Chinese cities over the period 2000–2016, we found a close relationship between per capita emissions and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) for individual cities, following the environmental Kuznets curve, despite diverse trajectories for CO2 emissions across the cities. Results show that carbon emissions peak for most cities at a per capita GDP (in 2011 purchasing power parity) of around US$21,000 (80% confidence interval: US$19,000 to 22,000). Applying a Monte Carlo approach to simulate the peak of per capita emissions using a Kuznets function based on China’s historical emissions, we project that emissions for China should peak at 13–16 GtCO2 yr−1 between 2021 and 2025, approximately 5–10 yr ahead of the current Paris target of 2030. We show that the challenges faced by individual types of Chinese cities in realizing low-carbon development differ significantly depending on economic structure, urban form and geographical location.

Xi Lu, Liang Cao, Haikun Wang, Wei Peng, Jia Xing, Shuxiao Wang, Siyi Cai, Bo Shen, Qing Yang, Chris P. Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. 2019. “Gasification of coal and biomass as a net carbon-negative power source for environment-friendly electricity generation in China.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116, 17, Pp. 8206-8213. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Realizing the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C by the end of this century will most likely require deployment of carbon-negative technologies. It is particularly important that China, as the world’s top carbon emitter, avoids being locked into carbon-intensive, coal-fired power-generation technologies and undertakes a smooth transition from high- to negative-carbon electricity production. We focus here on deploying a combination of coal and biomass energy to produce electricity in China using an integrated gasification cycle system combined with carbon capture and storage (CBECCS). Such a system will also reduce air pollutant emissions, thus contributing to China’s near-term goal of improving air quality. We evaluate the bus-bar electricity-generation prices for CBECCS with mixing ratios of crop residues varying from 0 to 100%, as well as associated costs for carbon mitigation and cobenefits for air quality. We find that CBECCS systems employing a crop residue ratio of 35% could produce electricity with net-zero life-cycle emissions of greenhouse gases, with a levelized cost of electricity of no more than 9.2 US cents per kilowatt hour. A carbon price of approximately $52.0 per ton would make CBECCS cost-competitive with pulverized coal power plants. Therefore, our results provide critical insights for designing a CBECCS strategy in China to harness near-term air-quality cobenefits while laying the foundation for achieving negative carbon emissions in the long run.
PNAS paper.pdf
Peter Sherman, Meng Gao, Shaojie Song, Patrick Ohiomoba, Alex Archibald, and Michael B. McElroy. 2019. “The influence of dynamics and emissions changes on China’s wintertime haze.” Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 58, Pp. 1603-1611. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Haze days induced by aerosol pollution in North and East China have posed a persistent and growing problem over the past few decades. These events are particularly threatening to densely-populated cities such as Beijing. While the sources of this pollution are predominantly anthropogenic, natural climate variations may also play a role in allowing for atmospheric conditions conducive to formation of severe haze episodes over populated areas. Here, an investigation is conducted into the effects of changes in global dynamics and emissions on air quality in China’s polluted regions using 35 simulations developed from the Community Earth Systems Model Large Ensemble (CESM LENS) run over the period 1920-2100. It is shown that internal variability significantly modulates aerosol optical depth (AOD) over China; it takes roughly a decade for the forced response to balance the effects from internal variability even in China’s most polluted regions. Random forest regressions are used to accurately model (R2 > 0.9) wintertime AOD using just climate oscillations, the month of the year and emissions. How different phases of each oscillation affect aerosol loading are projected using these regressions. AOD responses are identified for each oscillation, with particularly strong responses from El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). As ENSO can be projected a few months in advance and improvements in linear inverse modelling (LIM) may yield a similar predictability for the PDO, results of this study offer opportunities to improve the predictability of China’s severe wintertime haze events, and to inform policy options that could mitigate subsequent health impacts.

JAMC paper
Xingning Han, Xinyu Chen, Michael B. McElroy, Shiwu Liao, Chris P. Nielsen, and Jinyu Wen. 2019. “Modeling formulation and validation for accelerated simulation and flexibility assessment on large scale power systems under higher renewable penetrations.” Applied Energy, 237, Pp. 145-154. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Deploying high penetration of variable renewables represents a critical pathway for decarbonizing the power sector. Hydro power (including pumped-hydro), batteries, and fast responding thermal units are essential in providing system flexibility at elevated renewable penetration. How to quantify the merit of flexibility from these sources in accommodating variable renewables, and to evaluate the operational costs considering system flexibility constraints have been central challenges for future power system planning. This paper presents an improved linear formulation of the unit commitment model adopting unit grouping techniques to expedite evaluation of the curtailment of renewables and operational costs for large-scale power systems. All decision variables in this formulation are continuous, and all chronological constraints are formulated subsequently. Tested based on actual data from a regional power system in China, the computational speed of the model is more than 20,000 times faster than the rigorous unit commitment model, with less than 1% difference in results. Hourly simulation for an entire year takes less than 3 min. The results demonstrate strong potential to apply the proposed model to long term planning related issues, such as flexibility assessment, wind curtailment analysis, and operational cost evaluation, which could set a methodological foundation for evaluating the optimal combination of wind, solar and hydro investments.
S.J. Song, M. Gao, W.Q. Xu, Y.L. Sun, D.R. Worsnop, J.T. Jayne, Y.Z. Zhang, L. Zhu, M. Li, Z. Zhou, C.L. Cheng, Y.B. Lv, Y. Wang, W. Peng, X.B. Xu, N. Lin, Y.X. Wang, S.X. Wang, J. W. Munger, D. Jacob, and M.B. McElroy. 2019. “Possible heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemistry in northern China winter haze and implications for rapid sulfate formation.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 19, Pp. 1357-1371. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The chemical mechanisms responsible for rapid sulfate production, an important driver of winter haze formation in northern China, remain unclear. Here, we propose a potentially important heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemical mechanism. Through analyzing field measurements with aerosol mass spectrometry, we show evidence for a possible significant existence in haze aerosols of organosulfur primarily as HMS, misidentified as sulfate in previous observations. We estimate that HMS can account for up to about one-third of the sulfate concentrations unexplained by current air quality models. Heterogeneous production of HMS by SO2 and formaldehyde is favored under northern China winter haze conditions due to high aerosol water content, moderately acidic pH values, high gaseous precursor levels, and low temperature. These analyses identify an unappreciated importance of formaldehyde in secondary aerosol formation and call for more research on sources and on the chemistry of formaldehyde in northern China winter.
ACP paper
The potential of photovoltaics to power the Belt and Road Initiative
Shi Chen, Xi Lu, Yufei Miao, Yu Deng, Chris P. Nielsen, Noah Elbot, Yuanchen Wang, Kathryn G. Logan, Michael B. McElroy, and Jiming Hao. 2019. “The potential of photovoltaics to power the Belt and Road Initiative.” Joule, 3, Pp. 1-18. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Construction of carbon-intensive energy infrastructure is well underway under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), challenging the global climate target. Regionally abundant solar power could provide an alternative for electricity generation. An integrative spatial model was developed to evaluate the technical potential of solar photovoltaic power. The influence of impacting factors was quantified systematically on an hourly basis. Results suggest that the electricity potential for the BRI region reaches 448.9 PWh annually, 41.3 times the regional demand for electricity in 2016. Tapping 3.7% of the potential through deploying 7.8 TW capacity could satisfy the regional electricity demand projected for 2030, requiring an investment of approximately 11.2 trillion 2017 USD and a commitment in land area of 88,426 km2, approximately 0.9% of China’s total. Countries endowed with 70.7% of the overall potential consume only 30.1% of regional electricity. The imbalance underscores the advantage of regional cooperation and investments in interconnected grids.
Graphic Summary Joule full paper.pdf