The state of science on severe air pollution episodes: Quantitative and qualitative analysis

Lidia Morawska*, Tong Zhu*, Nairui Liu, Mehdi Amouei Torkmahalleh, Maria de Fatima Andrade, Benjamin Barratt, Parya Broomandi, Giorgio Buonanno, Luis Carlos Belalcazar Ceron, Jianmin Chen, Yan Cheng, Greg Evans, Mario Gavidia, Hai Guo, Ivan Hanigan*, Min Hu, Cheol H. Jeong, Frank Kelly, Laura Gallardo, Prashant KumarXiaopu Lyu, Benjamin J. Mullins, Claus Nordstrøm, Gavin Pereira, Xavier Querol, Nestor Yezid Rojas Roa, Armistead Russell, Helen Thompson, Hao Wang, Lina Wang, Tao Wang, Aneta Wierzbicka, Tao Xue, Celine Ye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Severe episodic air pollution blankets entire cities and regions and have a profound impact on humans and their activities. We compiled daily fine particle (PM2.5) data from 100 cities in five continents, investigated the trends of number, frequency, and duration of pollution episodes, and compared these with the baseline trend in air pollution. We showed that the factors contributing to these events are complex; however, long-term measures to abate emissions from all anthropogenic sources at all times is also the most efficient way to reduce the occurrence of severe air pollution events. In the short term, accurate forecasting systems of such events based on the meteorological conditions favouring their occurrence, together with effective emergency mitigation of anthropogenic sources, may lessen their magnitude and/or duration. However, there is no clear way of preventing events caused by natural sources affected by climate change, such as wildfires and desert dust outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106732
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date28 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Severe air pollution events
  • Pollution episodes
  • Urban air pollution
  • Pollution emissions
  • Formation of secondary pollutants
  • Mitigating air pollutants


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