Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 16, pp 15554–15567 | Cite as

The relationship between urban form and air pollution depends on seasonality and city size

  • Yupeng Liu
  • Jianguo Wu
  • Deyong Yu
  • Qun Ma
Research Article


Understanding how urban form is related to air pollution is important to urban planning and sustainability, but the urban form-air pollution relationship is currently muddled by inconsistent findings. In this study, we investigated how the compositional and configurational attributes of urban form were related to different air pollution measures (PM2.5, API, and exceedance) in 83 Chinese cities, with explicit consideration of city size and seasonality. Ten landscape metrics were selected to quantify urban form attributes, and Spearman’s correlation was used to quantify the urban form-air pollution relationship. Our results show that the urban form and air pollution relationship was dominated by city size and moderated by seasonality. Specifically, urban air pollution levels increased consistently and substantially from small to medium, large, and megacities. The urban form-air pollution relationship depended greatly on seasonality and monsoons. That is, the relationship was more pronounced in spring and summer than fall and winter, as well as in cities affected by monsoons. Urban air pollution was correlated more strongly with landscape composition metrics than landscape configuration metrics which seemed to affect only PM2.5 concentrations. Our study suggests that, to understand how air pollution levels are related to urban form, city size and seasonality must be explicitly considered (or controlled). Also, in order to mitigate urban air pollution problems, regional urban planning is needed to curb the spatial extent of built-up areas, reduce the degree of urban fragmentation, and increase urban compactness and contiguity, especially for large and megacities.


PM2.5 Air Pollution Index Exceedance Built-up area Urban sprawl Urban morphology 



This research was supported by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology through the National Basic Research Program of China (2014CB954303, 2014CB954301). We thank the members of the Center for Human-Environment System Sustainability (CHESS) at Beijing Normal University for their suggestions on this study. The National Earth System Science Data Sharing Infrastructure, National Science & Technology Infrastructure of China ( is gratefully acknowledged for data sharing.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_1743_MOESM1_ESM.docx (435 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 434 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  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 UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Life Sciences and School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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