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Spatio-temporal analysis of air pollution in North China Plain


Accompanying China’s rapid industrialization, a vast area of the country, particularly the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei (BTH) region, has significantly experienced concerning levels of air pollution over the past decade. Exposure to severe particulate matter (PM), \(PM_{2.5}\) in particular, it raises a crucial public health concern, but quantifying \(PM_{2.5}\) accurately across large geographic areas and across time poses a great challenge. To investigate \(PM_{2.5}\) concentration in the BTH region, we utilize a spatio-temporal mixed effects model that includes geographic information system-based time-invariant spatial variables and time-varying meteorological covariates. Our kriging results find that \(PM_{2.5}\) concentration is hazardous in the North China Plain (NCP), where major iron, steel, and cement industries are located. More importantly, our analysis of the impact of wind finds that the severity of air pollution highly depends on the direction of the wind. That is, a northerly wind can considerably reduce the level of \(PM_{2.5}\) in the NCP, while a southerly wind generally does not alleviate air pollution and sometimes even increases it. Using prediction error as a proxy for the level of local emissions, we find that Shijiazhuang and Tangshan produce the most significant local emissions, which coincides with a heavier industry in these two cities. During the winter heating period, we find that the two densely populated cities of Beijing and Tianjin have dramatic increases in local emissions because of the massive coal consumption during this period.

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This research was undertaken with the assistance of data resources provided by Professor Song Xi Chen’s research group based at Peking University (

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Correspondence to Le Chang.

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Handling Editor: Pierre R. L. Dutilleul

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Chang, L., Zou, T. Spatio-temporal analysis of air pollution in North China Plain. Environ Ecol Stat 29, 271–293 (2022).

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  • Spatio-temporal model
  • Kriging
  • Air pollution
  • Meteorological condition
  • North China Plain
  • Winter heating