Environmental Management

, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 1048–1061 | Cite as

Understanding the Patterns and Drivers of Air Pollution on Multiple Time Scales: The Case of Northern China

  • Yupeng Liu
  • Jianguo Wu
  • Deyong Yu
  • Ruifang Hao


China’s rapid economic growth during the past three decades has resulted in a number of environmental problems, including the deterioration of air quality. It is necessary to better understand how the spatial pattern of air pollutants varies with time scales and what drive these changes. To address these questions, this study focused on one of the most heavily air-polluted areas in North China. We first quantified the spatial pattern of air pollution, and then systematically examined the relationships of air pollution to several socioeconomic and climatic factors using the constraint line method, correlation analysis, and stepwise regression on decadal, annual, and seasonal scales. Our results indicate that PM2.5 was the dominant air pollutant in the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei region, while PM2.5 and PM10 were both important pollutants in the Agro-pastoral Transitional Zone (APTZ) region. Our statistical analyses suggest that energy consumption and gross domestic product (GDP) in the industry were the most important factors for air pollution on the decadal scale, but the impacts of climatic factors could also be significant. On the annual and seasonal scales, high wind speed, low relative humidity, and long sunshine duration constrained PM2.5 accumulation; low wind speed and high relative humidity constrained PM10 accumulation; and short sunshine duration and high wind speed constrained O3 accumulation. Our study showed that analyses on multiple temporal scales are not only necessary to determine key drivers of air pollution, but also insightful for understanding the spatial patterns of air pollution, which was important for urban planning and air pollution control.


PM2.5 Air quality index Constraint line analysis Correlation analysis Stepwise regression 



This research was funded by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) (2014CB954303, 2014CB954301) and the Fund for Creative Research Groups of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41621061). We thank the members of the Center for Human-Environment System Sustainability (CHESS) at Beijing Normal University for their suggestions on this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2018_1026_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.4 mb)
Supplementary Information(PDF 3469 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yupeng Liu
    • 1
  • Jianguo Wu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Deyong Yu
    • 1
  • Ruifang Hao
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Human-Environment System Sustainability (CHESS), State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology (ESPRE), Faculty of Geographical ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Life Sciences and School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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