Investigating the regional contributions to air pollution in Beijing: a dispersion modelling study using CO as a tracer

Abstract. The rapid urbanization and industrialization of northern China in recent decades has resulted in poor air quality in major cities like Beijing. Transport of air pollution plays a key role in determining the relative influence of local emissions and regional contributions to observed air pollution. In this paper, dispersion modelling (Numerical Atmospheric Modelling Environment, NAME model) is used with emission inventories and in situ ground measurement data to track the pathways of air masses arriving in Beijing. The percentage of time the air masses spent over specific regions during their travel to Beijing is used to assess the effects of regional meteorology on carbon monoxide (CO), a good tracer of anthropogenic emissions. The NAME model is used with the MEIC (Multi-resolution Emission Inventory for China) emission inventories to determine the amount of pollution that is transported to Beijing from the immediate surrounding areas and regions further away. This approach captures the magnitude and variability of CO over Beijing and reveals that CO is strongly driven by transport processes. This study provides a more detailed understanding of relative contributions to air pollution in Beijing under different regional airflow conditions. Approximately 45 % over a 4-year average (2013–2016) of the total CO pollution that affects Beijing is transported from other regions, and about half of this contribution comes from beyond the Hebei and Tianjin regions that immediately surround Beijing. The industrial sector is the dominant emission source from the surrounding regions and contributes over 20 % of the total CO in Beijing. Finally, using PM2.5 to determine high-pollution days, three pollution classification types of pollution were identified and used to analyse the APHH winter campaign and the 4-year period. The results can inform targeted control measures to be implemented by Beijing and the surrounding provinces to tackle air quality problems that affect Beijing and China.