Washington, July 15 : A research by a University of Rhode Island (URI) atmospheric chemist has revealed that China would be unable to fully fix its air quality problem in time for Olympics.
The researcher in question is Kenneth Rahn, a retired URI professor, who analyzed pollution data collected regularly for the last five years by Chinese scientists.
"There is both a local component and a regional component to the pollutants that cause unhealthy air in Beijing, and the severity of their effects are driven by weather fronts and winds," said Rahn, who travels to China several times a year to help scientists at Tsinghua University interpret their data.
"Since it's controlled by the weather, it will be a matter of luck whether the bad air periods correspond with days of outdoor Olympic events," he added.
According to Rahn, locally generated pollutants in Beijing consist primarily of organic matter from transportation, factories and cooking, while regional sources of pollution include ammonium sulfates and ammonium nitrates from coal-burning power plants, industry and transportation sources, which are easily transported long distances in the atmosphere.
"The air pollution pattern in Beijing is unusual, with high and low concentrations that can differ by a factor of 50 to 100," said Rahn.
"When the winds shift to the north and bring in clear air from Mongolia, the air can be relatively clean, though that's not the norm during the summer. But when winds are from the south, where there is a large population and lots of industrial activity, the air can be particularly hazardous," he explained.
When air quality in Beijing is at its worst, most of the pollutants come from distant sources, making it virtually impossible for local efforts to lead to the kind of improvements that the government would like.
"It's one thing to take steps to try to clean up a big city, but unless they also clean up the surrounding provinces, it's going to have a minor effect," said Rahn.
"They've tried to relocate some of the polluting industries over time, and Beijing has gotten a little cleaner each year because of it, but the background pollutants still blow in just the same," he added.