Elucidating severe urban haze formation in China. Academic Article uri icon


  • As the world's second largest economy, China has experienced severe haze pollution, with fine particulate matter (PM) recently reaching unprecedentedly high levels across many cities, and an understanding of the PM formation mechanism is critical in the development of efficient mediation policies to minimize its regional to global impacts. We demonstrate a periodic cycle of PM episodes in Beijing that is governed by meteorological conditions and characterized by two distinct aerosol formation processes of nucleation and growth, but with a small contribution from primary emissions and regional transport of particles. Nucleation consistently precedes a polluted period, producing a high number concentration of nano-sized particles under clean conditions. Accumulation of the particle mass concentration exceeding several hundred micrograms per cubic meter is accompanied by a continuous size growth from the nucleation-mode particles over multiple days to yield numerous larger particles, distinctive from the aerosol formation typically observed in other regions worldwide. The particle compositions in Beijing, on the other hand, exhibit a similarity to those commonly measured in many global areas, consistent with the chemical constituents dominated by secondary aerosol formation. Our results highlight that regulatory controls of gaseous emissions for volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides from local transportation and sulfur dioxide from regional industrial sources represent the key steps to reduce the urban PM level in China.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

altmetric score

  • 34.604

author list (cited authors)

  • Guo, S., Hu, M., Zamora, M. L., Peng, J., Shang, D., Zheng, J., ... Zhang, R.

citation count

  • 1241

complete list of authors

  • Guo, Song||Hu, Min||Zamora, Misti L||Peng, Jianfei||Shang, Dongjie||Zheng, Jing||Du, Zhuofei||Wu, Zhijun||Shao, Min||Zeng, Limin||Molina, Mario J||Zhang, Renyi

publication date

  • December 2014