It turns out that there may be larger forces at work than just roadside barbecues in creating China’s smothering urban smog.
According to a study published in the US journal Science Advances, the increased melting of Arctic ice and snowfall caused by global climate change have contributed to the airpocalypse by stagnating atmospheric conditions during the winter in China, trapping pollution over large cities.
These findings would help to explain why China has succeeded at cutting pollution-causing emissions, but hasn’t yet had much to show for it with many cities in the north continually blanked by a heavy layer of haze.
“Emissions in China have been decreasing over the last four years, but the severe winter haze is not getting better,” said Yuhang Wang, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led the study.
“Mostly, that’s because of a very rapid change in the high polar regions where sea ice is decreasing and snowfall is increasing. This perturbation keeps cold air from getting into the eastern parts of China where it would flush out the air pollution.”
The study’s findings were based on an analysis of the historically smoggy winter of 2013, which was preceded by record melting of sea ice in the Arctic, along with record high snowfall in far-northern Eurasia. Researchers say that computer simulations suggest connections between these two events, while critics counter that correlation does not mean causation.
Since the winter of 2013, China has placed a greater emphasis on cutting down on emissions. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang kicked off China’s annual legislative meetings this year in Beijing by vowing to “make our skies blue again” through comprehensive crackdowns on coal.
But no matter what China does, this study suggests that it may be impossible to turn the skies from grey to blue again. Specifically, researchers worried about how winter smog may consume the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
“Despite the efforts to reduce emissions, we think that the haze will probably continue in the future. It is partly climate-driven now, so it probably won’t get much better in winter. Emissions are no longer the only driver of these conditions,” Wang predicted.
Not sure how Beijing’s “smog squad” is gonna deal with this newfound threat.
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