Mapping Air Pollution Concentrations and Sources in China from Ground-Level Observations

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Robert A Rohde and Richard A. Muller, Berkeley Earth, Berkeley, CA, United States
China has recently established an extensive air quality monitoring system with over 1500 sites providing hourly data on airborne particulate matter (PM2.5 / PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and carbon monoxide (CO). Based on Kriging interpolation of these surface data, we derive a detailed map of air pollution across the eastern half of China. In northern and central China, the pollution is widespread; contrary to popular belief, pollution is not simply localized to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Chongqing, or in geologic basins. Pollution levels are lower in southern China, in part due to frequent rains. By incorporating wind measurements and estimating pollution transport, we also infer source distributions for key pollutants. Sources are widespread, but many of the largest sources are often situated in or near major population centers. A northeast corridor extending from near Shanghai to north of Beijing includes many of the most significant pollution sources in China. Roughly 5% of the study region accounts for 25% of observed particulate matter emissions. During the analysis period, roughly half of the population of China was subjected to a long-term average pollution level in the unhealthy range, according to standards used by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, nearly all of China’s population (>90%) was exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution at least some of the time. Based on health impact estimates from the Huai River Study, we estimate that the observed levels of particulate matter pollution contribute to about 1.4 million deaths every year in China, about 3500 per day, in agreement with prior estimates. Identification of sources from pollution data was facilitated by the reporting of hourly measurements, and we encourage other nations around the world to follow China’s example and provide such time-resolved data.