Based on observations of urban mass concentration of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5), ground meteorological data, vertical measurements of winds, temperature, and relative humidity (RH), and ECMWF reanalysis data, the major changes in the vertical structures of meteorological factors in the boundary layer (BL) during the heavy aerosol pollution episodes (HPEs) that occurred in winter 2016 in the urban Beijing area were analyzed. The HPEs are divided into two stages: the transport of pollutants under prevailing southerly winds, known as the transport stage (TS), and the PM2.5 explosive growth and pollution accumulation period characterized by a temperature inversion with low winds and high RH in the lower BL, known as the cumulative stage (CS). During the TS, a surface high lies south of Beijing, and pollutants are transported northwards. During the CS, a stable BL forms and is characterized by weak winds, temperature inversion, and moisture accumulation. Stable atmospheric stratification featured with light/calm winds and accumulated moisture (RH > 80%) below 250 m at the beginning of the CS is closely associated with the inversion, which is strengthened by the considerable decrease in near-surface air temperature due to the interaction between aerosols and radiation after the aerosol pollution occurs. A significant increase in the PLAM (Parameter Linking Aerosol Pollution and Meteorological Elements) index is found, which is linearly related to PM mass change. During the first 10 h of the CS, the more stable BL contributes approximately 84% of the explosive growth of PM2.5 mass. Additional accumulated near-surface moisture caused by the ground temperature decrease, weak turbulent diffusion, low BL height, and inhibited vertical mixing of water vapor is conducive to the secondary aerosol formation through chemical reactions, including liquid phase and heterogeneous reactions, which further increases the PM2.5 concentration levels. The contribution of these reaction mechanisms to the explosive growth of PM2.5 mass during the early CS and subsequent pollution accumulation requires further investigation.
- anomalous temperature inversion
- explosive growth of PM
- light or calm winds
- moisture accumulation
- pollutant transport