Persistent sulfate formation from London Fog to Chinese haze

Exceedingly high levels of fine particulate matter (PM) occur frequently in China, but the mechanism of severe haze formation remains unclear. From atmospheric measurements in two Chinese megacities and laboratory experiments, we show that the oxidation of SO2 by NO2 occurs efficiently in aqueous media under two polluted conditions: first, during the formation of the 1952 London Fog via in-cloud oxidation; and second, on fine PM with NH3 neutralization during severe haze in China. We suggest that effective haze mitigation is achievable by intervening in the sulfate formation process with NH3 and NO2 emission control measures. Hence, our results explain the outstanding sulfur problem during the historic London Fog formation and elucidate the chemical mechanism of severe haze in China.

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