What causes observed fog trends: Air quality or climate change?

Otto Klemm, Neng Huei Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

Fog is a situation when the visual range, which is the horizontal visibility, is reduced to less than 1000 m near the Earth’s surface by the presence of cloud droplets. Fog trend analyses are reported in the literature for hundreds of stations worldwide, the majority of which showing a considerable reduction of fog. Although fog is often associated with conditions at which cloud condensation nuclei had been activated at rH (relative humidity) > 100% and rapid growth had lead to the formation of fog droplets, this study focusses on urban air masses and conditions when rH is just below 100%. Mie scattering analysis shows that fog can form under such conditions and the reduction of the visual range is mainly caused by submicron aerosol particles which grow to diameters around 1 μm through deliquescence. The liquid water content itself is poorly correlated with the visual range. Assuming equilibrium conditions, both an increase of the air temperature and a reduction of the aerosol particle concentration lead to reductions of fog. In our example case, the increment for a temperature increase by 0.1°C had about the same effect as the reduction of aerosol concentrations by 10%. Care must be taken in projecting this result to actual conditions because the system is non-linear. However, physical evidence is presented which confirms that both climate change and an improvement of air quality are mechanisms that can contribute to the reduction of fog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1131-1142
Number of pages12
JournalAerosol and Air Quality Research
Volume16
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2016

Keywords

  • Air pollution
  • Air quality
  • Fog trends
  • Visibility
  • Visual range

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