Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 1333–1340 | Cite as

High-altitude and long-range transport of aerosols causing regional severe haze during extreme dust storms explains why afforestation does not prevent storms

  • Ping Guo
  • Shaocai YuEmail author
  • Liqiang Wang
  • Pengfei LiEmail author
  • Zhen Li
  • Khalid Mehmood
  • Xue Chen
  • Weiping Liu
  • Yannian Zhu
  • Xing Yu
  • Kiran Alapaty
  • Eric Lichtfouse
  • Daniel Rosenfeld
  • John H. Seinfeld
Original Paper


Climate change is predicted to induce more extreme events such as storms, heat waves, drought and floods. Dust storms are frequently occurring in northern China. Those storms degrade air quality by decreasing visibility and inducing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. To control dust storms, the Chinese government has launched a large-scale afforestation program by planting trees in arid areas, but the effectiveness of this program is still uncertain because the trajectories and altitudes of dust transport are poorly known. In particular, afforestation would be effective only if dust transport occurs at low altitudes. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed the extreme dust storm from May 2 to 7, 2017, which resulted in record-breaking dust loads over northern China. For that, we used dust RGB-composite data from the Himawari-8 satellite and the cloud-aerosol lidar, moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer data, and surface monitoring data. The source regions of the dust storms were identified using the hybrid single-particle Lagrangian integrated trajectory model and infrared pathfinder satellite observation. Contrary to our hypothesis, results show that dust is transported at high altitude of 1.0–6.5 km over long distances from northwestern China. This finding explains why the afforestation has not been effective to prevent this storm. Results also disclose the highest particulate matter (PM) concentrations of 447.3 μg/m3 for PM2.5 and 1842.0 μg/m3 for PM10 during the dust storm. Those levels highly exceed Chinese ambient air quality standards of 75 μg/m3 for PM2.5 and 150 μg/m3 for PM10.


Regional severe haze Massive dust storm Satellite observation Optical properties 



This work was partially supported by the Department of Science and Technology of China (Nos. 2016YFC0202702; 2014BAC22B06) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21577126). This work was also supported by the Joint NSFC–ISF Research Program (No. 41561144004), jointly funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Israel Science Foundation. Part of this work was also supported by the “Zhejiang 1000 Talent Plan” and Research Center for Air Pollution and Health in Zhejiang University. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the US EPA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Air Pollution and Health, Key Laboratory of Environmental Remediation and Ecological Health, Ministry of Education, College of Environmental and Resource SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Division of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  3. 3.Meteorological Institute of Shaanxi ProvinceXi’anChina
  4. 4.Systems Exposure Division, National Exposure Research LaboratoryU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Research Triangle ParkUSA
  5. 5.Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS, IRD, INRA, Coll FranceCEREGEAix en ProvenceFrance
  6. 6.Institute of Earth SciencesThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  7. 7.College of Science and TechnologyAgricultural University of HebeiBaodingPeople’s Republic of China

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