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Reduced springtime rainfall in southern China linked to human activity
Human activities produce large amounts of atmospheric pollutants, which can also have complex impacts on climate. A team of researchers from Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) has found that human activity may have significantly reduced the amount of springtime rainfall over Southern China since the 1980s. On February 29, Professor Tzung-May Fu‘s research group from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) at SUSTech published a paper in the high-impact academic journal, Geophysical Research Letters (IF = 4.58), a leader in Earth sciences. It was published under the title, “Anthropogenic Aerosols Significantly Reduce Mesoscale Convective System Occurrences and Precipitation over Southern China in April.” Since the 1980s, aerosols emitted by human activities into the atmosphere in China have doubled. Aerosols can affect precipitation and climate, both directly by scattering solar radiation and indirectly by changing cloud microphysics. However, due to the complexity of convective systems (weather systems where heavy rainfall comes about due to the vigorous upward motion of warm air), the impact of aerosols on convective systems and convective precipitation has been an important unresolved scientific question in climate research. Mesoscale convection systems (MCSs) cause severe weather such as heavy rain, hail, and strong wind, all of which can be very damaging to people’s safety and livelihood. Observations indicated that late spring precipitation in South China had decreased significantly since the 1980s, with 90% of that precipitation coming from MCSs. Professor Tzung-May Fu ‘s research group put forward a hypothesis based on the significant increase in aerosol emissions in China in recent decades. The increased aerosol emissions may have caused changes in springtime MCSs over Southern China, which led to the reduced rainfall. The research team compared the rainfall records in South China during the relatively cleaner period of 1979 to 1989 with those during the relatively polluted period of 2001 to 2011. They found that rainfall in South China had decreased by 25% in April between the two periods, which was mainly manifested by decreased occurrences of heavy rain (Figure 1a). The team applied the meteorology-chemistry model, WRF-Chem, to carry out experiments and developed an objective diagnostic algorithm for MCSs. They found that the large increase in aerosol emissions since the 1980s led to the simulated occurrences of MCS to decline by 21% to 32% (Figure 1b). Figure 1. Simulated April precipitation in South China: (a) Probability distribution of precipitation intensity; (b) Hours of occurrences of mesoscale convective system (MCS). Through further simulations, the team was able to elucidate the mechanism by which aerosols reduced MCSs in South China (Figure 2). The increased aerosol in the regional atmosphere enhanced the scattering of short-wave radiation from the sun. At the same time, more aerosols formed more liquid cloud droplets, which increased the amount of solar radiation reflected by clouds. Both mechanisms reduced solar radiation reaching the surface, making the surface cooler and more stable. Ultimately, this suppressed the occurrence of MCS, thereby reducing regional rainfall. This paper is pivotal in pointing out that aerosols affect MCSs not only directly, but also indirectly by altering the interactions between MCSs and the ambient atmosphere. These findings help advance the scientific understanding of the impacts of aerosol on precipitation and climate. Figure 2. Schematic diagram of the effect of carbon emissions on the April mesoscale convective system in South China Zhang Lijuan, a doctoral student at Peking University and a visiting student of SUSTech, is the first author; Professor Tzung-May Fu is the corresponding author. The study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). Article link: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019GL086204
Predicting rainfall-induced landslides becomes easier for all
Research led by the School of Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) had discovered new mechanisms for predicting landslides related to intensive rainfall. ESE Founding Dean Chunmiao Zheng has cooperated with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) to develop a new model for simulating rainfall-induced landslides. This model combines catchment hydrology (flow of water in the catchment) and soil mechanics (mechanical properties and behaviors of soil) to investigate how rainfall intensity temporal patterns affect where a landslide may occur, where it is expected to go, and how it evolves. The outcomes of this research are of significant importance, both practically and scientifically, for predicting geological disasters. High-impact journal Geophysical Research Letters (IF = 4.58), a leader in Earth sciences, published the paper under the title, “Rainfall Intensity Temporal Patterns Affect Shallow Landslide Triggering and Hazard Evolution.” Rainfall-induced landslides are severe natural disasters that frequently occur around the world, causing significant losses to human life and properties. Rainfall-induced landslides are associated with rainwater infiltration that may load and weaken soil mantle and lead to a sudden mass soil release, also known as a landslide. The rainfall intensity temporal patterns may affect the rainfall infiltration process and soil mechanical responses to rainfall loading. It continues to exert a tremendous influence on landslide dynamics and hazard evolution. Previous research often focused on the role of rainfall duration and average intensity on landslide initiation, neglecting the effects of rainfall intensity temporal patterns on landslides. Chunmiao Zheng and his team addressed the question of: “How rainfall intensity temporal patterns affect landslide triggering and hazard evolution?” The researchers first employed a stochastic process simulation technique to generate artificial time series of rainfall intensity with different temporal patterns but the same volume of rain over the same period. Then, they used these artificial rainfall time series as input for a novel Landslide Hydromechanical Triggering (LHT) model to simulate the landslide triggering and hazard evolution under different rainfall scenarios. The results showed that rainfall intensity temporal patterns alter the total amount of rainfall infiltration into the soil and affect soil mechanical strength and behaviors. It resulted in a wide range of landslide volumes, even though the total applied rainfall amount and duration are the same (Figure 1). Figure 1. Rainfall intensity temporal patterns affect total amount of rainfall infiltration and landslide volume The team also discovered that advanced rainfall pattern (peak rainfall intensity occurring at the beginning of a rainfall event) are more likely to promote landslide initiation, compared with delayed rainfall scenario (peak rainfall intensity at the later stage of rainfall) (Figure 2). These results not only yield insights into the triggering mechanisms of rainfall-induced landslides but also provide a scientific basis for establishing regional landslide warning systems. Figure 2. Dynamic evolution of landslide hazard under different rainfall dynamics The first author and corresponding author of the paper was ESE Research Fellow Dr. Fan Linfeng. Other key centers involved in this research were the Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Soil and Groundwater Pollution Control, the State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Integrated Surface Water-Groundwater Pollution Control, and the Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics (STEP), Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics (IBP), ETH Zurich. The research received support from the National Key R&D Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Integrated Surface Water‐Groundwater Pollution Control of China. Paper link: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019GL085994    
Winds of Change: faster wind speeds over land spells good news for all
Recently, Associate Professor Zhenzhong Zeng from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), and his collaborators have made important progress in global change regarding terrestrial windspeed changes that were published in Nature Climate Change(IF= 25.170). According to the global surface observation network, global wind speeds over land has been falling steadily since 1960, known as “global terrestrial stilling”. Global terrestrial stilling will seriously affect the efficiency of wind turbine power generation. Previous studies have suggested that global wind speed will continue to decline in the coming decades. In their paper, Zeng and his collaborators discovered for the first time that after decades of global terrestrial stilling, global wind speeds over land reversed in around 2010, presenting a sharp upward trend, and recovered to levels around 1980 in a short span of eight years. The recent growth rate is three times the pre-2010 rate of decline, with North America, Europe and Asia showing the most marked changes. The team also examined potential causes underlying global terrestrial stilling and its reversal. Previous studies had suggested a correlation with increased terrestrial roughness caused by urbanization and/or vegetation changes. However, Zeng et al. (2018 Environmental Research Letter) rejected the hypothesis of vegetation growth and change before analyzing the impact of urbanization and rejected this hypothesis. Zeng and his global collaborators have found that the variation in wind speed is determined mainly by driving forces associated with decadal variability of large-scale ocean/atmospheric circulations rather than increases in surface roughness. If the present trend persists for at least another decade, power generated by wind turbines could increase by 37% by 2024, resulting in a +3% per decade increase of global-average capacity factor (mean power generated divided by rated peak power). This change is even larger than the projected change in wind power potential caused by climate change under multiple scenarios. These research results are of great value to the global wind energy field, as they will be conducive to the development of the industry, developing wind energy into a major pillar of renewable energy. This paper provides a road map for further verification of the dynamic mechanisms, in order to improve the simulation of surface wind speeds according to IPCC climate models and weather models. The lead and the corresponding author is Dr. Zhenzhong Zeng (Southern University of Science and Technology, Princeton University). The collaborators include Alan D. Ziegler at National University of Singapore, Timothy Searchinger and Eric. F. Wood at Princeton University, Long Yang at Nanjing University, Anping Chen at Colorado State University, Kunlu Ju at Tsinghua University, Shilong Piao at Peking University, Laurent Z. X. Li at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Philippe Ciais at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Deliang Chen at University of Gothenburg, Junguo Liu at Southern University of Science and Technology, Cesar Azorin-Molina at Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación, Adrian Chappell at Cardiff University, and David Medvigy at University of Notre Dame. The research is supported by the following funding: the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the start-up fund provided by Southern University of Science and Technology and Lamsam-Thailand Sustain Development, Lamsam-Thailand Sustain Development, the National Key Research and Development Program of China, and National Natural Science Foundation of China. The link of the paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0622-6.
Advances in piezocatalysis through SUSTech-led research
Piezoelectric materials have promising potential for converting mechanical energy into chemical energy (i.e. piezocatalysis) by coupling the piezotronic effect with electrochemical processes. The piezopotential generated by an external force can efficiently separate free carriers (electrons and holes), allowing piezoelectric materials be directly used for renewable energy production and environmental remediation using weak mechanical force, such as noise and vibration from the surrounding environment. Recently, Professor Zhang Zuotai of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering (SESE) at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) led his research team to make significant progress in this field, publishing two papers in top international journal Nano Energy. The first paper is entitled “Enhanced catalytic performance by multi-field coupling in KNbO3 nanostructures: Piezo-photocatalytic and ferro-photoelectrochemical effects.” In this work, the team designed and synthesized two-dimensional piezoelectric KNbO3 nanosheets. Both experimental and theoretical calculations showed that the material has larger piezoelectric potential and better catalytic activity under applied stress. In addition, the photocurrent of KNbO3 nanosheets based photoelectrodes can be effectively modulated by the ferroelectric polarization. The team believes that the outcomes of this research could provide future guidance for the development of other piezo-/ferroelectric materials for solar/mechanical energy conversion. Visiting student Yu Dongfang was the first author of the paper. Professor Zhang Zuotai and Research Assistant Professor Li Shun were the corresponding authors. Original article – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211285519301053 The second paper is entitled “Few-Layer Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (MoS2, WS2, and WSe2) for Water Splitting and Degradation of Organic Pollutants: Understanding the Piezocatalytic Effect”. Two-dimensional layered transition metal disulfides (TMDs) have attracted much attention due to their unique electronic, mechanical and chemical properties. In this study, the research team prepared a series of two-dimensional TMDs (MoS2, WS2 and WSe2), and found that they can split water to produce hydrogen under ultrasonic mechanical force. The theoretical calculations showed that the catalytic efficiency is tightly related to the piezoelectric coefficient. In addition, the series of materials can also degrade tetracycline efficiently, which provides a new way for the treatment of emerging environmental pollutants. Their research may have profound implications in solving challenging energy and environmental issues by scavenging energy waste such as noise and vibration from the environment. Assistant Professor Li Shun, visiting students Zhao Zhicheng and Yu Dongfang are the first co-authors of the paper. Professor Zhang Zuotai and Assistant Professor Zhao Jinzhu of the Academy of Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies are corresponding authors. Original article – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211285519307906 These works are supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Soil and Groundwater Pollution Control, the Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Committee, and Shenzhen Clean Energy Research Institute.    
Professor Zheng Yi wins CSNR Outstanding Science and Technology Award
On September 21st, the China Society for Natural Resources (CSNR) held its 2019 Academic Annual Meeting at Ningxia University. Professor Zheng Yi from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE) at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) won this year’s “Outstanding Science and Technology Award.” The CSNR Outstanding Science and Technology Award was established in 2013 to recognize and reward scientific and technological talents who have made outstanding contributions in resource science and technology. The award seeks to promote innovation, collaboration and dedication to the cultivation of high-level scientific and technological talents that serve social and economic development. It is awarded every two years and Professor Zheng Yi is one of 20 recipients this year. Professor Zheng Yi received his Ph.D. degree in environmental science and management from University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Zheng joined ESE in January 2016. He is a recipient of the Excellent Young Scholars Award from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). Dr. Zheng serves as an Associate Editor-in-Chief of Water Resources Research, a key international journal in water resources with high academic influence. He is also the Associate Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hydrologic Engineering-ASCE. Dr. Zheng has extensive experience of watershed management practice, both in the U.S. and in China. He held a water resources engineer position in an environmental consulting firm before he came back to China, and his tasks included watershed water quality modeling, and development and management application of decision-making systems. He was a key member in several water resources assessment and environmental planning projects contracted with state and local government agencies, including California Department of Transportation, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Dr. Zheng was the correspondent author for a paper that used security cameras to advance our understanding of hydrology that was published in Water Resources Research and was later reported as a Research Spotlight on the website of Earth & Space Science News.
Professor Chunmiao Zheng elected AGU Fellow
Professor Chunmiao Zheng from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), according to its official announcement on August 15. Among the 2019 class of AGU Fellows are 62 distinguished earth and space scientists from around the world, including 3 currently working in mainland China.                                                                                  Chunmiao Zheng AGU Fellows are an honor given to individual AGU members who have made exceptional scientific contributions and gained prominence in their respective fields of Earth and space sciences. According to the organization’s bylaws, no more than 0.1% of the total membership receives this recognition in any given year since the AGU Fellows program was established in 1962. “AGU Fellows are recognized for their scientific eminence in the Earth and space sciences. Their breadth of interests and the scope of their contributions are remarkable and often groundbreaking. Only 0.1% of AGU membership receives this recognition in any given year. On behalf of AGU’s Honors and Recognition Committee, our Union Fellows Committee, our section Fellows committees, AGU leaders, and staff, we are immensely proud to present the 2019 class of AGU Fellows,” said Robin Bell, AGU President.                                              From:  https://eos.org/agu-news/2019-class-of-agu-fellows-announced Zheng was elected as an AGU fellow for his exceptional contributions to understanding and modeling contaminant transport processes in physically and chemically heterogeneous subsurface media. In the early 90s, he developed the contaminant transport modeling code MT3D, which was widely accepted by researchers and practitioners alike soon after its release. With continuing improvements including the multiple-component version MT3DMS, the transport modeling tool would go on to become an international standard used in over 100 countries. A report of the U.S. National Research Council referred to Zheng’s transport modeling tool as a milestone in hydrogeology over the 20th century.                                     Zheng (middle) in the midst of a groundwater tracer field test at the well-known                                                                                                 Macro-Dispersion Experiment site (MADE site) in the United States. At the same time, Zheng devoted much of his attention to exploring and understanding solute transport processes at well-instructed tracer experiment sites. Based on the analysis of detailed field data, he and his collaborators were able to show that small-scale preferential flow paths exert a dominant control on solute transport processes and proposed new modeling and parameterization approaches to account for such preferential flow paths. This work has improved the predictive capability of solute transport modeling and provided new thinking on how to cope with the effects of heterogeneity on contaminant transport, a grand challenge for subsurface hydrology. Furthermore, Zheng collaborated with his colleagues to couple the transport code MT3DMS with the geochemical code PHREEQC2 to provide a versatile tool for analyzing and understanding contaminant transport under both physical and chemical heterogeneities. The coupled reactive transport model was evaluated through comprehensive field tests at the Hanford site, leading to invaluable new understanding and insights on the complexity of reactive transport in the subsurface. Since 2010, Zheng has been working mostly in China. He first established the Center for Water Research and then the Institute of Water Sciences at Peking University to tackle major water challenges in China. In 2015, Zheng moved to Southern University of Science and Technology to launch the then new School of Environmental Science and Engineering. In the four years since, the School has developed into a strong academic entity with 60 faculty members, nearly 250 undergraduate and graduate students, and three provincial- and ministerial-level research centers. Zheng has also served on the steering committees for two major research programs of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). These two programs, “An Integrative Study of Ecological and Hydrological Processes in the Heihe River Basin” and “Runoff Changes and Adaptive Management in the Headwater Region of Major Southwestern Rivers”, are vitally important for meeting China’s water resources management challenges under a changing climate.                                       Zheng served on the steering committee for the major research program “An                                                                                    integrated ecological-hydrological study of the Heihe River Basin” in northwest China. Zheng graduated from Chengdu College of Geology (now Chengdu University of Technology) in 1983. Afterwards, he went to study abroad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a Ph.D. degree in hydrogeology with a minor in environmental engineering in 1988. He has both industrial experience as a consulting hydrogeologist at S.S. Papadopulos & Associates, Inc. and academic experience as a faculty member at the University of Alabama, Peking University, and Southern University of Science and Technology. For his outstanding contributions, he has received numerous awards and honors, including, John Hem Award from the National Ground Water Association (1998), Fellow of the Geological Society of America (1999), Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer of the Geological Society of America (1999), O.E. Meinzer Award from the Geological Society of America (2013), and M. King Hubbert Award from the National Ground Water Association (2013). Founded in 1919, the mission of the American Geophysical Union is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing 60,000 members in 137 countries. The scientific disciplines represented by the AGU include Earth, ocean, atmospheric and space sciences. About AGU: https://www.agu.org/ Announcement about the 2019 Class of AGU Fellows: https://eos.org/agu-news/2019-class-of-agu-fellows-announced
Security cameras can keep us safe and teach us about rain
The quantity and quality of precipitation data are crucial to hydrological research, water resource management, and analysis of global change. Rain gauges collect raindrops at ground level and are a classic approach to measuring rainfall. However, rain gauges are usually spatially sparse; thus, they cannot adequately capture the spatial variability of precipitation, especially in topographically challenging areas, such as mountainous or urban areas. Cities like Chongqing are both urban and mountainous regions, which make the collection of accurate precipitation data especially taxing. Recently, esteemed environmental science journal Water Resources Research published a paper by Professor Zheng Yi’s research team from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering (SESE) at Southern University of Science and Engineering (SUSTech). The paper, entitled “Advancing Opportunistic Sensing in Hydrology: A Novel Approach to Measuring Rainfall with Ordinary Surveillance Cameras,” sought to examine the use of the Internet of Things for the hydrological sensing. A summary of the paper was also published on Earth and Space Science News Research Spotlight that reports on a small number of important research results. “Opportunistic sensing” represents an appealing idea for collecting unconventional data with broad spatial coverage and high resolution, but few studies have explored its feasibility in hydrology. As we enter the era of the Internet of Things, “anything may become data” has become a common meme. The density of CCTV cameras has led to researchers considering their use for a wider range of purposes. Visual data from surveillance cameras is more informative, intuitive, and achievable, with commercial applications in areas such as traffic management. CCTV cameras can quantify rainfall intensity through rain streaks, and researchers have developed algorithms for attempting to better understand rainfall intensity. However, that research had not yet provided accurate measurements in real-world environments that are visually complex. Professor Zheng Yi’s research group proposed a novel approach for using CCTV cameras to measure environmental data. They developed a rain print extraction and segmentation algorithm for videos of rainfall. The algorithm combined geometric optics and raindrop spectrum analysis, thereby providing high-frequency, fixed-point rainfall estimations. This algorithm was proven to provide low cost, high resolution and real-time results, thereby allowing for the dense collection of closed circuit television cameras in urban areas to be used as a rainfall monitoring network. Tracking of real-time rainfall data will assist scientists, researchers and institutions in simulating climate change, flood forecasting, water resources management and other water environment monitoring purposes. The research team is currently working with local meteorological authorities to apply the new method across Shenzhen. Ph.D. candidate Jiang Shijie of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at SUSTech (co-cultivated with National University of Singapore) is the first author and Professor Zheng Yi is the correspondent author. The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the State Key Laboratory for Comprehensive Prevention and Control of Surface Water and Groundwater Pollution in Environmental Protection Watershed, and the Guangdong Key Laboratory for Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Soil and Groundwater Pollution. Report link: https://eos.org/research-spotlights/ordinary-security-cameras-could-keep-an-eye-on-rain Paper Link: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2018WR024480
Prof. Yan Zheng’s group attended the 10th International Symposium on Managed Aquifer Recharge
The 10th International Symposium on Managed Aquifer Recharge(ISMAR10)was held in Madrid during May 20-24, 2019. ISMAR10 featured 20 MAR related topics including MAR as a key climate change adaptation measure, sustainable MAR in developing countries, water quality and related hydrogeochemistry aspects, modelling, management of clogging and MAR and economic aspects etc. Researchers, practitioners and regulators from dozens of countries from all five continents presented research that advances in MAR from theory to practice. At ISMAR 10, our project is represented by graduate students Meng Ma (PKU/SUSTech) and Wensi Guo (SUSTech/HKU), post-doctoral trainee Yunjie Ma (SUSTech) and Jakub Modrzynski (GEUS), and Professors Jens Aamand (GEUS), Shisong Qu (U Jinan),Weiping Wang (U Jinan) and Yan Zheng (SUSTech). During the 10th ISMAR, attendants from MAR-China project communicated and discussed widely with other MAR researchers. Professor Yan Zheng co-hosted a workshop in which she described new environmental and social sustainability indicators that she has developed for a forthcoming UNESCO publication co-edited by her on MAR. She also hosted Session 3 on new regional case studies. Professor Weiping Wang hosted Session 20 on training on MAR and he also gave a presentation on specific types and adaptability zoning evaluation of managed aquifer recharge for irrigation in the North China Plain (NCP). Professor Shisong Qu gave a presentation on water quantity and quality risk assessment of the Karst aquifer recharge with multi-source water in Yufu river of Jinan, China. In terms of water quality, Jakub Modrzynski presented his recent work on simulating removal of organic contaminants of emerging concerns (CECs) through reactive MAR barriers. Yunjie Ma gave a presentation entitled ‘Antibiotic removal during riverbank filtration of reclaimed water’, shedding insights on biogeochemical processes responsible for antibiotics removal during riverbank infiltration of reclaimed water in Beiyun River of the NCP. PhD student Meng Ma presented his research on assessment of the fate of an antibiotic, sulfamethoxazole, from a push-pull experiment conducted in an experimental site in suburban Beijing of the NCP. In terms of recharge quantity, PhD student Wensi Guo presented her regional groundwater flow model results in Baoding Plain of NCP, testing scenarios of using newly available water from South to North Water Diversion. Finally, during the IAH-MAR Commission Plenary session, Professor Yan Zheng was elected as its Co-Chair. She was received a certificate of appreciation issued by International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) to recognize her exceptional services to advance the objectives of IAH-MAR Commission for her leadership role on MAR for sustainable development  
World Environment Day: Reducing air pollution key to better life
World Environment Day is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment, and occurs on June 5 every year. Since it began in 1974, the event has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. Above all, World Environment Day is the “people’s day” for doing something to take care of the Earth. That “something” can be local, national or global. It can be a solo action or involve a crowd. Everyone is free to choose. Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that draws attention to a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2019 is “Air pollution”. Every World Environment Day has a different host country, where the official celebrations take place. The focus on the host country helps highlight the environmental challenges it faces and supports worldwide efforts to address them. This year’s host is China. With air pollution everywhere, we are sucking in tiny particles that attack our lungs, heart and brain at every moment. Host country China chose this theme, which invites the world to consider how to reduce the amount of air pollution produced and the impact of it on our health. Globally, 9 out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) standards, and about 7 million people die each year from air pollution. Air pollution may cause many other problems, including a variety of illnesses and lower IQs. It is also intricately tied to global warming, another severe consequence of anthropogenic activities. Air pollution is preventable, and everybody needs to work together to reduce and eliminate it. With that in mind, the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) has recruited scientist and professor Tzung-May Fu to its faculty. Her research focus is air pollution, atmospheric chemistry, and chemistry-climate interactions, with particular emphases on organic gases and organic aerosols. The Newshub spoke to Professor Tzung-May Fu to find out about her research, her interest in air pollution and what’s really important to know about it. After a short period as a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard, she continued on to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering. In 2010, Tzung-May Fu moved to Beijing to take a position as a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor in the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences at Peking University. Following her promotion to Associate Professor with tenure in 2016, she joined SUSTech in 2019 as a full Professor in the School of Environmental Science and Engineering. We asked Professor Tzung-May Fu why she chose to research air pollution. She said that it is a very personal science, because so many people suffer from the impact of it. The science of air pollution is also highly interdisciplinary, involving chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and other disciplines. Professor Tzung-May Fu spoke about the double threat of air pollution and climate warming, as well as the dilemma of the short term problems of trying to fix it. With the burning of fossil fuels, along with the industrial and residential use of fuel and many other anthropogenic activities, there is a common source for air pollution and the greenhouse gases that are associated with climate warning. Understanding this is more important than anything else. She also noted that there are some interesting interactions between both air pollution and climate warming. Professor Tzung-May Fu said that switching to cleaner fuel and adopting cleaner production processes would help control air pollution and combat global warming at the same time, giving us “double bang for the buck” and stronger incentive. Professor Tzung-May Fu’s research group is particularly interested in the role of organic gases and aerosols. This area of research is diverse, with tens of thousands of organics, as Professor Tzung-May Fu called them, in the atmosphere. Researchers are constantly finding new organics, working out what they do and how they react. This area of research is developing rapidly, with much of the research identifying different organics and the pathway for their formation in the atmosphere. Professor Tzung-May Fu explained that there is evidence for the presence of a large amount of organics in the atmosphere, but we do not know what they are, where they come from or how they are produced in the atmosphere, or the full impact of those organics to climate. She also noted that reactions can vary as a result of a wide range of factors. We were curious to know how China can continue to maintain its world-leading role in tackling domestic air pollution. Professor Tzung-May Fu acknowledged that China has done an excellent job at reducing PM2.5 emissions. China’s technological advantages mean that it can innovate in trying to reduce other forms of emissions, such as ozone and secondary organic aerosols, both of which are becoming increasingly important. “The technology to control SO2 (sulfur dioxide) is mature and the implementation of the technology has been done particularly well. This is why we’ve seen SO2 emissions come down so rapidly in the last 15 years in China. If we’re going to go after VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other harder to control pollutants, we need to develop new control or substitute technologies that will help us achieve that.” Much of Professor Tzung-May Fu’s research focuses on chemical reactions at the atmospheric level. She explained the difference between primary and secondary pollutants, with primary pollutants being those that we can easily control and secondary pollutants being emitted as precursors that may not be toxic by themselves, but become toxic or climate-relevant via atmospheric reactions. Professor Tzung-May Fu pointed out that Shenzhen is leading the country by being very close to meeting the second interim standard for PM2.5 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), but to truly get below that level, Shenzhen needs to deal with secondary pollutants. The key to dealing with secondary pollutants is working out how they react and evolve in the atmosphere. “The atmosphere is like a flowing flask, with variable temperature, wind and humidity conditions that move throughout the flask at all times, depending on the atmospheric conditions.” We asked about how forest fires and bushfires act as a source of air pollutants. Professor Tzung-May Fu confirmed that fires are indeed important seasonal sources of air pollution. Great progress has been made in the past decade in trying to quantify the spatiotemporal variability of natural and human-induced forest fires and bushfires through satellite imagery. Techniques involving inverse modeling of surface and satellite observations have also helped. However, the amount of pollutants emitted from these fires are still very uncertain. Moreover, the occurrence of these fires are hard to forecast, which limits the accuracy of air quality in areas prone to these fires. Professor Tzung-May Fu also discussed how, while most air pollutants we care about are emitted by human activities, some organics are emitted by natural vegetation in large quantities. The  interactions between natural and anthropogenic pollutants is important. With her research specialty into organics, she noted that the eastern part of China is a unique ecosystem, with all sorts of emissions coming from this vast area. Many countries have specific areas that emit pollutants particular to industry and nature. However, the conglomeration of industry and nature in China means that everything is emitted throughout the whole region. Education is essential for helping people understand the importance of air pollution. Professor Tzung-May Fu believed that people have become more aware of air pollution and what it means. Society has moved a long way in the last few years in developing a better understanding of air pollution, in conjunction with climate change. Esteemed faculty members like Professor Tzung-May Fu believe that there is potential for everyone to breathe clean air in the future, but we must work hard together in an interdisciplinary fashion to find the best ways to solve our air pollution problems. Related articles: China to host World Environment Day 2019 on air pollution – http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201903/16/WS5c8c1e9fa3106c65c34eeeb5.html , https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/china-host-world-environment-day-2019-air-pollution  
Learning all the skills: Environmental Science Outstanding Graduate Li Yumin
With a wide range of traditional Chinese cultural interests spanning from chess and calligraphy to Chinese painting and martial arts, Li Yumin is also an academic superstar at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech). Having topped her class in the School of Environmental Science and Engineering (“School of Environment”), she has also published a paper as a first author at a meeting of the American Geological Society, and was subsequently offered the opportunity to complete a Ph.D. at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Li Yumin has the desire to learn all of the things and all of the skills, and we spoke to her to find out what makes her tick.   “I love nature.” Deciding to major in the environmental sciences was a prudent decision for Li Yumin. In her sophomore year, she entered the research group of School of Environment Founding Dean Professor Zheng Chunmiao, opening the door to environmental science. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary area, which is one of the reasons why she headed down this path. Her determination to major in environmental science came from a summer course in Washington that Prof. Zheng Chunmiao runs every year. Every year, he takes students such as Xuan Chen and Li Yumin to a soil and groundwater treatment company where they learn from environmental scientists about advanced foreign technology. They also enjoyed field trips to the Patuxent Wildlife Center and the Great Falls of the Potomac River. The students inspected pollution control sites as part of their trip. American scientists explained that the United States still needed to keep working on its river system governance, with the hope of making every river clean enough to swim in again. It was the words of the scientists and ducks swimming freely in clear water that inspired Li Yumin. She considered the rivers in China and water pollution in Shenzhen, which resulted in an idea in her heart and mind crystallizing into one, clarifying into a singular vision. “In this trip, I decided to study environmental science. I really love nature and the environment. I’m hoping to contribute to a better environment in China.”   A rapid pace for scientific research For the American Geological Society in 2017, Li Yumin conducted research on the loss of groundwater resources since the development of Shenzhen. The title of the paper was “Impact of Urbanization on Groundwater Resources in Shenzhen”. The research results were published at the annual meeting of the American Geological Society (GSA) 2017. From the fishing village to the reinforced concrete forests today, Shenzhen’s economic take-off has masked the regrettable fact that water resources are extremely scarce. 2 years after the study, Li Yumin is still stunned by the results of the study at the time. Li Yumin cares about environmental issues and thus combines theory with practice. SESE also encourages students to undertake practical applications of their theoretical knowledge, with educators combining their textbooks with field experience. SESE wants its students to experience everything from the topography to the landscape, in order to truly understand the magnificent natural environment. Li Yumin also undertook an internship at the Daya Bay Ecological Monitoring Station. She smiled and said, “I was conducting tests inside the station and could see a sea of clouds outside the window. There are not many scientific professions where you can also enjoy such a beautiful landscape.” There are many opportunities for internships for those that opt to major in the environmental sciences. However, it is not for everyone, with many scientists and researchers spending time truly in the field. Li Yumin accepted that spending time out and about was an important part of her development as a scientist, so she opted not to complain. Li Yumin enjoyed every aspect of every field trip with an open-minded attitude, encouraging her colleagues with her ambition and level-headedness. Li Yumin has received a doctoral offer from HKUST on a full scholarship, with which to start the next stage of her academic career. Whether she is studying the hydrological model, the atmospheric model, or atmospheric aerosol models that she will continue to study as part of her doctoral period, Li Yumin has long been interested in practical environmental issues. “Whether it was sewage treatment or air pollution, I want to do some real work. I hope that my future research will actually provide a real change for our environment.”   Her life is poetry in motion When not deep in her research, Li Yumin has a wide range of interests. She has been heavily involved in traditional culture as well as more modern pastimes. A clearly talented woman who is called by her friends as “a girl out of the Book of Songs,” referring to the one of the Five Classics of Chinese poetry. Li Yumin believes that she remains a “Hunan spicy girl,” referring to the fact that most people born and bred in Hunan province love to eat spicy food and have a hot temper. She remains lively and active while deeply immersed in a cultural life. She has found a slower, more peaceful life through the cultural influence of her family, filled with books like The Four Books, The Five Classics, the Three Kingdoms and Sun Tzu’s Art of War. “I was never forced to read them, but they were always there. I eventually found the interesting points in each book. She’s very different from other students, in that she’s not reliant on a mobile device. She sticks to calligraphy, painting and Tai Chi to relax her body and mind. A consistent routine has led to her finding her own happiness. “I can do scientific research and enjoy traditional culture at the same time. I have done well in my studies while enjoying my own hobbies. I want to integrate these hobbies into my daily life and become relaxed in my spare time.” In her spare time, Li Yumin also participated in the founding of the Academy of Calligraphy and Painting, and also organized various activities such as martial arts performances. She found that it was a great way to meet new people and teach people about different activities. Li Yumin also took part in several liberal arts courses, including the bronze jade appreciation course opened by Professor Tang Jigen of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Through her degree, many interesting liberal arts courses have filled up and increased in capacity to deal with student demand. She believes that SUSTech students have become more interested in the liberal arts curriculum, fundamentally improving campus culture. “Culture is not like science or technology. It is more about creating an atmosphere. If the way of thinking, talking and even the surrounding environment of the people around you have a cultural atmosphere, you can feel a strong cultural atmosphere.” As a traditional cultural enthusiast and Academy of Calligraphy and Painting, Li Yumin found that more and more SUSTech students are approaching and falling in love with traditional culture at SUSTech. Through the platform of SUSTech’s inclusive freedom, she was able to develop and pursue her heart. This is the story of Li Yumin.
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