New research claims more "airpocalypses" are expected to occur in China as global warming worsens. The severe pollution suffered by China recently points to one major cause — climate change.
Climate scientists have found that the lack of ice in the Arctic and increasing snowfalls in Siberia have changed the weather patterns in East China.
"The ventilation is getting worse," study author Yuhang Wang, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said.
Climate change, he said, has "a large effect on pollution in China."
Air pollution became a national crisis in China during the 2012 to 2013 winter seasons. Almost two-thirds of the country's 74 big cities registered pollution levels beyond the national air quality standards.
At the time, smog was also discovered to have contained small particles, smaller than 2.5 micrometers, which could cause heart and lung diseases.
Some 90,000 people died and hundreds of thousands more fell ill during the 2013 winter smog. The event was often referred to as China's "airpocalypse."
The situation did not improve even though tighter measures against emissions were implemented by the Chinese government. Although the summer air is clearer, winter smog has remained a serious problem.
The Key Driver Behind The 2013 'Airpocalypse'
The new study, however, found that climate change was the key driver of the severe air pollution that took place.
The team led by Wang published their research in the journal Science Advances on March 15. Wang was joined by Yufei Zou, Yuzhong Zhang, and Ja-Ho Koo.
The researchers found out that the 2013 airpocalypse came after the Arctic ice plunged to its record low coupled with increased Siberian snowfall.
The Arctic ice plunged again to its lowest last year, and then China suffered another round of airpocalypse this winter.
"The very rapid change in polar warming is really having a large impact on China," Wang said.
The emissions in China are on the decrease for the last four years, but winter smog has remained an environmental problem.
Decreasing sea ice and increasing snowfall in the polar region kept the "cold air from getting into the eastern parts of China, where it would flush out the air pollution."
As global warming will continue to cause melting of Arctic ice, the researchers said, "extreme haze events in winter will likely to occur at a higher frequency in China."
The airpocalypse phenomenon should give a more urgent tone to initiatives in reducing air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.
The issue of smog reduction is not only about cutting emissions that pollute the air.
"It is also about reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from China and all the other countries ... [to] slow down the rapidly changing Arctic climate," Wang said.
According to recent research, greenhouse gas emissions from human activity account for almost 75 percent of the decrease of summer sea ice.