Projecting the impacts of atmospheric conditions under climate change on air quality over the Pearl River Delta region

Cheuk Hei Marcus Tong, Steve Hung Lam Yim, Daniel Rothenberg, Chien Wang, Chuan Yao Lin, Yongqin David Chen, Ngar Cheung Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic climate change has been increasingly confirmed by weather observation and scientific literature in recent decades. Atmospheric stability, which has strong effects on vertical mixing of air pollutants and thus air quality, may be affected under climate change. This study aims to statistically assess the impacts of climate change alone on the future air quality in the Pearl River Delta region in the near future (2030–2039) and the far future (2090–2099) under two Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenarios, i.e., RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, based on the future surface and upper level meteorological data projected by one regional climate model (RCM): WRF, and by four general circulation models (GCMs): CanESM2, MIROC, MRI-CGCM3 and MPI-ESM-LR. The arithmetic means of projections reveal an increase in the levels of air pollutants [ozone (O3), respirable suspended particulates (RSP) and sulphur dioxide (SO2)] in various seasons, even though a decrease is projected to occur in June-July-August. These changes in projected mean concentration are more significant in the far future, and under the RCP8.5 scenario. Among difference meteorological variables, surface temperature is most associated with the projected change in the three pollutants, with a range from 56.9% to 65.2% in all seasons and for all pollutants, relative to all contributions in RCP8.5 for example. Other notable associations include positive effects of vertical temperature gradient and the temperature–dew point difference on pollutant concentration. We found an increase in frequency of high pollution levels in December–January–February and March–April–May, as the occurrence proportion of pollutant concentration greater than the recent 95th percentile is 9.5%–9.6% and 6.4%–9.2%, respectively. We conclude that climate change alone is projected to have significant effect on air quality in the Pearl River Delta region in future, implying the necessity of more stringent air pollutant emission control policies to mitigate air pollution in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-87
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Air quality
  • Climate change
  • General circulation model
  • Generalized linear models
  • Trans-boundary air pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Projecting the impacts of atmospheric conditions under climate change on air quality over the Pearl River Delta region'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this