Investigation of factors controlling PM₂.₅ variability across the South Korean Peninsula during KORUS-AQ

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Citation of Original Publication

Carolyn E. Jordan, James H. Crawford, Andreas J. Beyersdorf, Thomas F. Eck, Hannah S. Halliday, Benjamin A. Nault, Lim-Seok Chang, JinSoo Park, Rokjin Park, Gangwoong Lee, Hwajin Kim, Jun-young Ahn, Seogju Cho, Hye Jung Shin, Jae Hong Lee, Jinsang Jung, Deug-Soo Kim, Meehye Lee, Taehyoung Lee, Andrew Whitehill, James Szykman, Melinda K. Schueneman, Pedro Campuzano-Jost, Jose L. Jimenez, Joshua P. DiGangi, Glenn S. Diskin, Bruce E. Anderson, Richard H. Moore, Luke D. Ziemba, Marta A. Fenn, Johnathan W. Hair, Ralph E. Kuehn, Robert E. Holz, Gao Chen, Katherine Travis, Michael Shook, David A. Peterson, Kara D. Lamb, Joshua P. Schwarz; Investigation of factors controlling PM2.5 variability across the South Korean Peninsula during KORUS-AQ. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 1 January 2020; 8 28. doi:


This work was written as part of one of the author's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.
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The Korea – United States Air Quality Study (May – June 2016) deployed instrumented aircraft and ground-based measurements to elucidate causes of poor air quality related to high ozone and aerosol concentrations in South Korea. This work synthesizes data pertaining to aerosols (specifically, particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters <2.5 micrometers, PM2.5) and conditions leading to violations of South Korean air quality standards (24-hr mean PM2.5 < 35 µg m–3). PM2.5 variability from AirKorea monitors across South Korea is evaluated. Detailed data from the Seoul vicinity are used to interpret factors that contribute to elevated PM2.5. The interplay between meteorology and surface aerosols, contrasting synoptic-scale behavior vs. local influences, is presented. Transboundary transport from upwind sources, vertical mixing and containment of aerosols, and local production of secondary aerosols are discussed. Two meteorological periods are probed for drivers of elevated PM2.5. Clear, dry conditions, with limited transport (Stagnant period), promoted photochemical production of secondary organic aerosol from locally emitted precursors. Cloudy humid conditions fostered rapid heterogeneous secondary inorganic aerosol production from local and transported emissions (Transport/Haze period), likely driven by a positive feedback mechanism where water uptake by aerosols increased gas-to-particle partitioning that increased water uptake. Further, clouds reduced solar insolation, suppressing mixing, exacerbating PM2.5 accumulation in a shallow boundary layer. The combination of factors contributing to enhanced PM2.5 is challenging to model, complicating quantification of contributions to PM2.5 from local versus upwind precursors and production. We recommend co-locating additional continuous measurements at a few AirKorea sites across South Korea to help resolve this and other outstanding questions: carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide (transboundary transport tracer), boundary layer height (surface PM2.5 mixing depth), and aerosol composition with aerosol liquid water (meteorologically-dependent secondary production). These data would aid future research to refine emissions targets to further improve South Korean PM2.5 air quality.