Potential impacts of cold frontal passage on air quality over the Yangtze River Delta, China
Cold frontal passages usually promote quick removal of atmospheric pollutants over North China (e.g. the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei region). However, in the Yangtze River Delta (YRD), cold fronts may bring air pollutants from the polluted North China Plain (NCP), thereby deteriorating the air quality in the YRD. In this study, a cold frontal passage and a subsequent stable weather event over YRD during 21–26 January 2015 was investigated with in situ observations and Weather Research and Forecasting – Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System simulations. Observations showed a burst of PM2.5 pollution and an obvious southward motion of PM2.5 peaks on the afternoon of 21 January, suggesting a strong inflow of highly polluted air masses to YRD by a cold frontal passage. Model simulations revealed an existing warm and polluted air mass over YRD ahead of the frontal zone, which climbed to the free troposphere along the frontal surface as the cold front passed, increasing the PM2.5 concentration at high altitudes. Strong north-westerly frontal airflow transported particles from the highly polluted NCP to the YRD. As the frontal zone moved downstream of YRD, high pressure took control over the YRD, which resulted in a synoptic subsidence that trapped PM2.5 in the boundary layer. After the cold frontal episode, a uniform pressure field took control over the YRD. Locally emitted PM2.5 started to accumulate under the weak winds and stable atmosphere. Tagging of PM2.5 by geophysical regions showed that the PM2.5 contribution from the YRD itself was 35 % and the contribution from the NCP was 29 % during the cold frontal passage. However, under the subsequent stable weather conditions, the PM2.5 contribution from the YRD increased to 61.5 % and the contribution from the NCP decreased to 14.5 %. The results of this study indicate that cold fronts are potential carriers of atmospheric pollutants when there are strong air pollutant sources in upstream areas, which may deteriorate air quality in downstream regions.