Change of air quality and its impact on atmospheric visibility in central-western Pearl River Delta
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Ambient air quality data, including atmospheric visibility, of Foshan city, a highly polluted city in the Pearl River Delta (PRD), and data obtained by the On-line Air Pollutant Exhaust Monitoring Network (OAPEMN), recently established by the National Emission Monitoring and Control Network for major industrial enterprises, were analyzed and are reported here for the first time, revealing the change in air pollution patterns and its impact on visibility degradation in the last decade. Reduced visibility of less than 8 km (after elimination of rainy and foggy periods) was found 22% of the time from 1998 to 2008, accompanied by elevated levels of pollutants, especially SO2 and PM10, in comparison with that of other developed cities. However, PM10 showed a steady decreasing trend (0.004 mg m − 3 year − 1) during 2001–2008, in contrast to the noticeable increase in ambient NO2 concentrations from ~0.020 mg m − 3 before 2005 to above 0.050 mg m − 3 afterward. Multiple regression analysis revealed that the percentage of reduced visibility strongly correlated with PM10 concentration, suggesting that visibility degradation was directly proportional to the loading of particles. Moreover, the fairly significant correlation between reduced visibility and NO2 concentration also implied that the impact of primary emissions of NO2 and enhanced secondary pollutants, formed via photochemical processes in the atmosphere, could not be ignored. The decreased PM10 levels were obviously the predominant factor for the improvement in visibility (5.0% per 0.01 mg m − 3) and were likely due to the implementation of stricter air pollution control measures for industrial exhaust, which also resulted in reduced SO2 pollution levels in the recent 2 years. In particular, the OAPEMN records showed an overall enhanced SO2 removal by 64% in major industrial sectors. The continuous increase in road traffic and lack of efficient NO x control strategies in the PRD region, however, caused an increase in ambient NO2 concentrations.
KeywordsVisibility degradation Sulfur dioxide Particulate matter Nitrogen dioxide Photochemical oxidant
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