A new study published in the journal Science Advances discovered a new reason for China’s severe winter air pollution. It suggests that the smog in China is worsening because of climate change and the effects it has on atmospheric circulation.
China led a continuous fight against global warming and pollution, and they succeeded in decreasing gas emissions. However, the winter smog did not decrease. Yuhang Wang, the author of the study which can be found here, and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, explained why there were no improvements.
Low sea ice levels might affect atmospheric conditions
Many changes occur in the polar regions where the sea ice level is decreasing and snowfall is increasing. These changes, among others, prevent cold air from reaching China. Thus, it cannot cast away the air pollution. Researchers studied these effects of low sea ice levels.
During the winter of 2013, they measured the effects which occurred in East China Plains, the area where Beijing is located. They noticed that the area showed high levels of particulate pollution. This means that there are big pollutant particles into the air, the visibility is reduced, and the pollution might affect the respiratory tracts of the local people.
A separate study discovered that a stricter control of air quality and prevention of particulate pollution could prevent around 3 million deaths per year. Unfortunately, China has poor measurement equipment and it is difficult to improve air quality, as other unforeseen factors may appear and make the process harder.
Mixed opinions about the hypothesis
Many other researchers worldwide call this study innovative, as it is the first which links the large scale event of low sea ice levels to the regional event of severe smog in China. However, others insist on warning people against concluding that the first event caused the second. Low ice levels could have contributed to the Chinese smog, but putting a direct link between them is highly speculative.
However, Wang suggests that China might be suffering uniquely from global warming. Its geographical position allows it to be sensitive to any small changes in the atmosphere. The study discovered that the low ice levels and heavy snowfall pushed the East Asian Winter Monsoon eastward. This caused the wind speeds to decrease, and this caused the air above China to become stagnant.
Wang will continue to study the atmospheric conditions above China and will try to put a stop to gas emissions, hoping that the heavy smog would start decreasing in the next period.
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