Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

Arctic sea ice, Eurasia snow, and extreme winter haze in China

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Science Advances  15 Mar 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 3, e1602751
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602751

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Abstract

The East China Plains (ECP) region experienced the worst haze pollution on record for January in 2013. We show that the unprecedented haze event is due to the extremely poor ventilation conditions, which had not been seen in the preceding three decades. Statistical analysis suggests that the extremely poor ventilation conditions are linked to Arctic sea ice loss in the preceding autumn and extensive boreal snowfall in the earlier winter. We identify the regional circulation mode that leads to extremely poor ventilation over the ECP region. Climate model simulations indicate that boreal cryospheric forcing enhances the regional circulation mode of poor ventilation in the ECP region and provides conducive conditions for extreme haze such as that of 2013. Consequently, extreme haze events in winter will likely occur at a higher frequency in China as a result of the changing boreal cryosphere, posing difficult challenges for winter haze mitigation but providing a strong incentive for greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Keywords
  • extreme haze
  • pollution in China
  • boreal cryosphere changes
  • climate change and impacts

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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