Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gases & Climate

Mario Molina lecture photo

Nobelist Mario Molina Public Lecture on Air Quality in Beijing and Mexico City

February 10, 2017

On February 8, 2017, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario Molina gave a public lecture to a capacity crowd in the Science Center, in which he discussed and compared air quality issues in megacities. Focusing on Mexico City and Beijing, he argued that cities can learn from each other and that fundamental scientific research remains essential to creative air quality solutions. The lecture was sponsored by the China Project, and co-sponsored by the Harvard Global Institute, the Harvard Center for the Environment, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health.
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Xuan Wang, Yuxuan Wang, Jiming Hao, Yutaka Kondo, Martin Irwin, J. William Munger, and Yongjing Zhao. 2013. “Top-down estimate of China's black carbon emissions using surface observations: Sensitivity to observation representativeness and transport model error.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 118, 11, Pp. 5781-5795. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This study examines the sensitivity of “top-down” quantification of Chinese black carbon (BC) emissions to the temporal resolution of surface observations and to the transport model error associated with the grid resolution and wet deposition. At two rural sites (Miyun in North China Plain and Chongming in Yangtze River Delta), the model-inferred emission bias based on hourly BC observations can differ by up to 41% from that based on monthly mean observations. This difference relates to the intrinsic inability of the grid-based model in simulating high pollution plumes, which often exert a larger influence on the arithmetic mean of observations at monthly time steps. Adopting the variation of BC to carbon monoxide correlation slope with precipitation as a suitable measure to evaluate the model's wet deposition, we found that wet removal of BC in the model was too weak, due in part to the model's underestimation of large precipitation events. After filtering out the observations during high pollution plumes and large precipitation events for which the transport model error should not be translated into the emission error, the inferred emission bias changed from −11% (without filtering) to −2% (with filtering) at the Miyun site, and from −22% to +1% at the Chongming site. Using surface BC observations from three more rural sites (located in Northeast, Central, and Central South China, respectively) as constraints, our top-down estimate of total BC emissions over China was 1.80 ± 0.65 Tg/yr in 2006, 0.5% lower than the bottom-up inventory of Zhang et al. (2009) but with smaller uncertainty.

Yuxuan Wang, Michael B. McElroy, J. William Munger, Jiming Hao, Hong Ma, and Chris P Nielsen. 2010. “Year-round measurements of O3 and CO at a rural site near Beijing: Variations in their correlations.” Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 62, 4, Pp. 228-241. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We examine seasonal variations of carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and their relationships observed over the course of 3 yr (2005–2007) at Miyun, a rural site 100 km north of Beijing. Monthly mean afternoon mixing ratios of CO have broad maxima in winter and a secondary peak in June. Monthly mean afternoon O3 shows a clear seasonal pattern with a major peak in June (85 ppb), a secondary peak in September (65 ppb) and minimum in winter (50–55 ppb). The seasonal cycles of O3 and CO are associated with seasonal changes in dominant synoptic pattern. Substantial interannual variability is found for CO which is attributed to the interannual variability of meteorology and emissions from biomass burning. The seasonality and magnitude of background CO and O3 derived at Miyun are consistent with observations at upwind remote continental sites. The O3–CO correlation slope is about 0.07 ppb ppb−1 on average in summer, significantly lower than the typical slope of 0.3 ppb ppb−1 reported for developed countries. The O3–CO correlation slope shows large gradients for different types of air masses (0.133 ± 0.017 ppb ppb−1 in aged urban pollution plumes and 0.047 ± 0.008 ppb ppb−1 in biomass burning plumes), suggesting that the conventional method of direct scaling the mean O3–CO slope by CO emissions to deduce O3 production rate is subject to large uncertainties if applied for China.
Yuxuan Wang, Michael B. McElroy, Randall V Martin, David G Streets, Qiang Zhang, and Tung-May Fu. 2007. “Seasonal variability of NOx emissions over east China constrained by satellite observations: Implications for combustion and microbial sources.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D06301. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Observations of tropospheric column densities of NO2 obtained from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) for a 3‐year period (1997, 1998, and 2000) are used to derive average seasonal variations in surface emissions of NOx from east China (100–123°E, 20–42°N). The retrieval allows for zonal variations in the contribution of the stratosphere to the NO2 column and removes a bias of ±10% on the seasonality of retrieved columns introduced by cloud screening. The top‐down inventory is constructed using an inversion approach with a global 3‐D chemical transport model (GEOS‐Chem) and combined subsequently with the a priori inventory to develop an a posteriori inventory. The contribution of background NO2 arising from nonsurface sources (lightning) and long‐range transport of emissions originating outside of east China is accounted for in the inversion. The a posteriori estimate of overall emissions for east China, 4.66 Tg N/yr (±30% uncertainty), is 33% higher than the a priori value and is shown to improve agreement with surface measurements of nitrate wet deposition and concentrations of NOy observed in China. On the basis of multiple constraints on the spatial and seasonal variations of combustion and microbial processes, the a posteriori inventory is partitioned among emissions from biomass burning, fuel combustion, and microbial activity (or soil emissions). Emission of NOx from biomass burning in east China is estimated as 0.08 TgN/yr ± 50% in the a posteriori inventory, increased by about a factor of 2 from the a priori estimate. The resulting a posteriori inventory for fuel combustion (3.72 TgN/yr ± 32%) is about 15% higher than the a priori and exhibits a distinct maximum in winter, in contrast to the weak seasonality indicated in the a priori inventory. The a posteriori value for the microbial source of NOx (0.85 TgN/yr ± 40%) is about a factor of 3 higher than the a priori value, amounting to 23% of combustion sources for east China and significantly higher than a priori value of 7%. The microbial source is unimportant in winter. It peaks in summer, accounting for as much as 43% of the combustion source for that season, and is significant also in spring and fall. This seasonality is attributed to the timing of fertilizer application and to the influence of seasonally variable environmental factors including temperature and precipitation.
Long Wang, Shuxiao Wang, Lei Zheng, Yuxuan Wang, Yanxu Zheng, Chris P Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, and Jiming Hao. 2014. “Source apportionment of atmospheric mercury pollution in China using the GEOS-Chem model.” Environmental Pollution, 190, July, Pp. 166-175. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China is the largest atmospheric mercury (Hg) emitter in the world. Its Hg emissions and environmental impacts need to be evaluated. In this study, China's Hg emission inventory is updated to 2007 and applied in the GEOS-Chem model to simulate the Hg concentrations and depositions in China. Results indicate that simulations agree well with observed background Hg concentrations. The anthropogenic sources contributed 35–50% of THg concentration and 50–70% of total deposition in polluted regions. Sensitivity analysis was performed to assess the impacts of mercury emissions from power plants, non-ferrous metal smelters and cement plants. It is found that power plants are the most important emission sources in the North China, the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) while the contribution of non-ferrous metal smelters is most significant in the Southwest China. The impacts of cement plants are significant in the YRD, PRD and Central China.

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