Quantifying the relationship between PM 2.5 concentration, visibility and planetary boundary layer height for long-lasting haze and fog–haze mixed events in Beijing
Air quality and visibility are strongly influenced by aerosol loading, which is driven by meteorological conditions. The quantification of their relationships is critical to understanding the physical and chemical processes and forecasting of the polluted events. We investigated and quantified the relationship between PM 2.5 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter is 2.5 µm and less) mass concentration, visibility and planetary boundary layer (PBL) height in this study based on the data obtained from four long-lasting haze events and seven fog–haze mixed events from January 2014 to March 2015 in Beijing. The statistical results show that there was a negative exponential function between the visibility and the PM 2.5 mass concentration for both haze and fog–haze mixed events (with the same R2 of 0.80). However, the fog–haze events caused a more obvious decrease of visibility than that for haze events due to the formation of fog droplets that could induce higher light extinction. The PM 2.5 concentration had an inversely linear correlation with PBL height for haze events and a negative exponential correlation for fog–haze mixed events, indicating that the PM 2.5 concentration is more sensitive to PBL height in fog–haze mixed events. The visibility had positively linear correlation with the PBL height with an R2 of 0.35 in haze events and positive exponential correlation with an R2 of 0.56 in fog–haze mixed events. We also investigated the physical mechanism responsible for these relationships between visibility, PM 2.5 concentration and PBL height through typical haze and fog–haze mixed event and found that a double inversion layer formed in both typical events and played critical roles in maintaining and enhancing the long-lasting polluted events. The variations of the double inversion layers were closely associated with the processes of long-wave radiation cooling in the nighttime and short-wave solar radiation reduction in the daytime. The upper-level stable inversion layer was formed by the persistent warm and humid southwestern airflow, while the low-level inversion layer was initially produced by the surface long-wave radiation cooling in the nighttime and maintained by the reduction of surface solar radiation in the daytime. The obvious descending process of the upper-level inversion layer induced by the radiation process could be responsible for the enhancement of the low-level inversion layer and the lowering PBL height, as well as high aerosol loading for these polluted events. The reduction of surface solar radiation in the daytime could be around 35 % for the haze event and 94 % for the fog–haze mixed event. Therefore, the formation and subsequent descending processes of the upper-level inversion layer should be an important factor in maintaining and strengthening the long-lasting severe polluted events, which has not been revealed in previous publications. The interactions and feedbacks between PM 2.5 concentration and PBL height linked by radiation process caused a more significant and long-lasting deterioration of air quality and visibility in fog–haze mixed events. The interactions and feedbacks of all processes were particularly strong when the PM 2.5 mass concentration was larger than 150–200 µg m −3.