U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Pollution from China Suppresses Rain over East China Sea
Published: May 12, 2011
Posted: June 17, 2011

Rapid economic growth over the last 30 years in China has led to a significant increase in aerosol loading, which is mainly due to the increased emissions of its precursors such as SO2 and NOx. In this study, partially supported by DOE, the authors show that these changes significantly affect wintertime clouds and precipitation over the East China Sea downwind of major emission sources. Satellite observations show a 50% increase of cloud droplet number concentration from the 1980s to 2005. In the same time period, precipitation frequency reported by voluntary ship observers was reduced from more than 30% to less than 20% of the time. A back trajectory analysis showed the pollution in the investigation area to originate from the Shanghai-Nanjing and Jinan industrial areas. A model sensitivity study was performed, isolating the effects of changes in emissions of the aerosol precursors SO2 and NOx on clouds and precipitation using a state-of-the-art regional model including chemistry and aerosol indirect effects. The model was able to simulate similar changes in cloud droplet number concentration over the East China Sea when the current industrial emissions in China were reduced to the 1980 levels. Modeled changes in precipitation were somewhat smaller than the observed changes but still significant. The study reveals a significant impact of local pollution on precipitation.

Reference: Bennartz, R., J. Fan, J. Rausch, L. R. Leung, and A. K. Heidinger. 2011. “Pollution from China Increases Cloud Droplet Number, Suppresses Rain over the East China Sea,” Geophysical Research Letters 38, L09704. DOI: 10.1029/2011GL047235. (Reference link)

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)