Impact of the Loess Plateau on the atmospheric boundary layer structure and air quality in the North China Plain: A case study

Xiao Ming Hu, Zhi Qiang Ma, Weili Lin, Hongliang Zhang, Jianlin Hu, Ying Wang, Xiaobin Xu, Jose D. Fuentes, Ming Xue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


The North China Plain (NCP), to the east of the Loess Plateau, experiences severe regional air pollution. During the daytime in the summer, the Loess Plateau acts as an elevated heat source. The impacts of such a thermal effect on meteorological phenomena (e.g., waves, precipitation) in this region have been discussed. However, its impacts on the atmospheric boundary layer structure and air quality have not been reported.It is hypothesized that the thermal effect of the Plateau likely modulates the boundary layer structure and ambient concentrations of pollutants over the NCP under certain meteorological conditions. Thus, this study investigates such effect and its impacts using measurements and three-dimensional model simulations. It is found that in the presence of daytime westerly wind in the lower troposphere (~1km above the NCP), warmer air above the Loess Plateau was transported over the NCP and imposed a thermal inversion above the mixed boundary layer, which acted as a lid and suppressed the mixed layer growth. As a result, pollutants accumulated in the shallow mixed layer and ozone was efficiently produced. The downward branch of the thermally-induced Mountain-Plains Solenoid circulation over the NCP contributed to enhancing the capping inversion and exacerbating air pollution. Previous studies have reported that low mixed layer, a factor for elevated pollution in the NCP, may be caused by aerosol scattering and absorption of solar radiation, frontal inversion, and large scale subsidence. The present study revealed a different mechanism (i.e., westerly warm advection) for the suppression of the mixed layer in summer NCP, which caused severe O3 pollution. This study has important implications for understanding the essential meteorological factors for pollution episodes in this region and forecasting these severe events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-237
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 5 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of the Loess Plateau on the atmospheric boundary layer structure and air quality in the North China Plain: A case study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this