Understanding global PM2.5 concentrations and their drivers in recent decades (1998–2016)

Chul Hee Lim, Jieun Ryu, Yuyoung Choi, Seong Woo Jeon, Woo Kyun Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)


The threat of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is increasing globally. Tackling this issue requires an accurate understanding of its trends and drivers. In this study, global risk regions of PM2.5 concentrations during 1998–2016 were spatiotemporally derived. Time series analysis was conducted in the spatial relationship between PM2.5 and three socio-environmental drivers: population, urban ratio, and vegetation greenness that can cause changes in the concentration of PM2.5. “High Risk” areas were widely distributed in India and China. In India and sub-Saharan Africa, the increased overall population was strongly correlated with PM2.5 concentrations. Urban ratio increased in both developed and developing countries. A “decoupling” phenomenon occurred in developed countries, where urban expansion continued while PM2.5 concentrations decreased. Vegetation greenness and PM2.5 were strongly correlated in High Risk zones. Although urban expansion and population growth generally reduce vegetation greenness, developed countries reduced PM2.5 while maintaining greenness, whereas developing countries increased PM2.5 with decreasing greenness significantly in High Risk regions. Ultimately, economic and national growth should occur without increasing PM2.5 concentrations. Recent cases from Europe and the eastern United States demonstrate that this is possible, depending on the development pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106011
JournalEnvironment international
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)


  • Global correlation analysis
  • Global trend analysis
  • PM2.5
  • Risk assessment
  • Socio-environmental drivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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