Atmospheric pollution assessment near potential source of natural aerosols in the South Gobi Desert region, China

Rapid economic growth, a high degree of urbanization and the proximity of a large number of desert and semidesert landscapes can have a significant impact on the atmosphere of adjacent territories, leading to high levels of atmospheric pollution. Therefore, identifying possible sources of atmospheric pollution is one of the main tasks. In this study, we carried out an analysis of spatial and temporal characteristics of five main atmospheric pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, SO2, NO2, and CO) near potential source of natural aerosols, affecting seven cities (Wuhai, Alashan, Wuzhong, Zhongwei, Wuwei, Jinchang, Zhangye), located in immediate proximity to the South Gobi deserts. The results, obtained for the period from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2018, demonstrate total concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10 are 38.2 ± 19.5 and 101 ± 80.7 μg/m3 exceeding the same established by the Chinese National Ambient Air Quality Standard (CNAAQS), being 35 and 70 μg/m3, respectively. Based on the data from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) for the whole period, Clean Сontinental (71.49%) and Mixed (22.29%) types of aerosols prevail in the region. In the spring and winter seasons maximum concentrations of pollutants and high values of Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) in the region atmosphere are observed. PM2.5 and PM10 ratio shows the presence of coarse aerosols in the total content with value 0.43. The highest concentrations of pollutants were in the period of dust storms activity, when PM2.5 and PM10 content exceeded 200 and 1000 µg/m3, and AOD value exceeded 1. UV Aerosol Index (UVAI), Aerosol Absorbing Optical Depth (AAOD), and Single Scattering Albedo (SSA), obtained from Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), demonstrate the high content of dust aerosols in the period of sandstorms. Analysis of backward trajectories shows that dust air masses moved from North to Northwest China, affecting large deserts such as Taklamakan, Gurbantunggut, Badain Jaran, Tengger, and Ulan Buh deserts.