Spatiotemporal variations and driving factors of air pollution in China

Dongsheng Zhan, Mei Po Kwan, Wenzhong Zhang, Shaojian Wang, Jianhui Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, severe and persistent air pollution episodes in China have drawn wide public concern. Based on ground monitoring air quality data collected in 2015 in Chinese cities above the prefectural level, this study identifies the spatiotemporal variations of air pollution and its associated driving factors in China using descriptive statistics and geographical detector methods. The results show that the average air pollution ratio and continuous air pollution ratio across Chinese cities in 2015 were 23.1 ± 16.9% and 16.2 ± 14.8%. The highest levels of air pollution ratio and continuous air pollution ratio were observed in northern China, especially in the Bohai Rim region and Xinjiang province, and the lowest levels were found in southern China. The average and maximum levels of continuous air pollution show distinct spatial variations when compared with those of the continuous air pollution ratio. Monthly changes in both air pollution ratio and continuous air pollution ratio have a U-shaped variation, indicating that the highest levels of air pollution occurred in winter and the lowest levels happened in summer. The results of the geographical detector model further reveal that the effect intensity of natural factors on the spatial disparity of the air pollution ratio is greater than that of human-related factors. Specifically, among natural factors, the annual average temperature, land relief, and relative humidity have the greatest and most significant negative effects on the air pollution ratio, whereas human factors such as population density, the number of vehicles, and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) witness the strongest and most significant positive effects on air pollution ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1538
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 8 2017


  • Air pollution
  • China
  • Driving factors
  • Geographical detector
  • Spatiotemporal variations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatiotemporal variations and driving factors of air pollution in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this