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Volume 16, No. 5, May 2016, Pages 1131-1142 PDF(1.25 MB)  
doi: 10.4209/aaqr.2015.05.0353   

What Causes Observed Fog Trends: Air Quality or Climate Change?

Otto Klemm1, Neng‐Huei Lin2

1 Universität Münster, Institut für Landschaftsökologie, Klimatologie, Heisenbergstr. 2, 48149 Münster, Germany
2 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, National Central University, No. 300, Jhongda Rd., Jhongli 320, Taiwan


  • 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.



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