When and why PM2.5 is high in Seoul, South Korea: Interpreting long-term (2015–2021) ground observations using machine learning and a chemical transport model

Hyung Min Lee, Na Kyung Kim, Joonyoung Ahn, Seung Myung Park, Ji Yi Lee, Yong Pyo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Seoul has high PM2.5 concentrations and has not attained the national annual average standard so far. To understand the reasons, we analyzed long-term (2015–2021) hourly observations of aerosols (PM2.5, NO3, NH4+, SO42−, OC, and EC) and gases (CO, NO2, and SO2) from Seoul and Baekryeong Island, a background site in the upwind region of Seoul. We applied the weather normalization method for meteorological conditions and a 3-dimensional chemical transport model, GEOS-Chem, to identify the effect of policy implementation and aerosol formation mechanisms. The monthly mean PM2.5 ranges between about 20 μg m−3 (warm season) and about 40 μg m−3 (cold season) at both sites, but the annual decreasing rates were larger at Seoul than at Baengnyeong (−0.7 μg m−3 a−1 vs. -1.8 μg m−3 a−1) demonstrating the effectiveness of the local air quality policies including the Special Act on Air Quality in the Seoul Metropolitan Area (SAAQ-SMA) and the seasonal control measures. The weather-normalized monthly mean data shows the highest PM2.5 concentration in March and the lowest concentration in August throughout the 7 years with NO3 accounting for about 40 % of the difference between the two months at both sites. Taking together with the GEOS-Chem model results, which reproduced the elevated NO3 in March, we concluded the elevated atmospheric oxidant level increases in HNO3 (which is not available from the observation) and the still low temperatures in March promote rapid production of NO3. We used Ox (≡ O3 + NO2) from the observation and OH from the GEOS-Chem as a proxy for the atmospheric oxidant level which can be a source of uncertainty. Thus, direct observations of OH and HNO3 are needed to provide convincing evidence. This study shows that reducing HNO3 levels through atmospheric oxidant level control in the cold season can be effective in PM2.5 mitigation in Seoul.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170822
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume920
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • GEOS-Chem
  • Nitrate
  • Nitric acid
  • Seasonal variation
  • Seoul
  • rmweather

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