Cite this article: Klemm, O. and Lin, N. (2016). What Causes Observed Fog Trends: Air Quality or Climate Change?.
Aerosol Air Qual. Res.
16: 1131-1142. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2015.05.0353
Literature analysis shows a decrease of fog trends at hundreds of stations worldwide.
Fog may occur at sub-saturation conditions (humidity < 100%) in polluted air masses.
Both climate change and improvement of air quality may lead to a reduction of fog.
An increase of temperature by 0.1°C lead to the same decrease of fog as reduction of aerosols by 10%.
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.
Keywords: Fog trends; Air quality; Air pollution; Visibility; Visual range