Articles | Volume 35, issue 4
Regular paper
18 Jul 2017
Regular paper |  | 18 Jul 2017

Urbanization effect on trends in sunshine duration in China

Yawen Wang, Martin Wild, Arturo Sanchez-Lorenzo, and Veronica Manara

Abstract. There is an ongoing debate on whether the observed decadal variations in surface solar radiation, known as dimming and brightening periods, are a large-scale or solely local phenomenon. We investigated this issue using long-term sunshine duration records from China, which experienced a rapid increase in urbanization during the past decades. Over the period 1960–2013, 172 pairs of urban and nearby rural stations were analyzed. Urban and rural sunshine duration trends show similar spatial patterns during a dimming phase (1960–1989) and a subsequent period during which trends were leveling off (1990–2013). This indicates that rather than local effects, the trends in sunshine duration are on more of a national or regional scale in China. Nevertheless, in the dimming phase, the declining rate of sunshine duration in rural areas is around two-thirds of that in urban areas. The ratio of rural to urban dimming generally increases from a minimum of 0.39 to a maximum of 0.87 with increasing indices of urbanization calculated based on the year 2013. It reaches a maximum when the urbanization level exceeds 50 %, the urban population exceeds 20 million, or the population density becomes higher than 250 person km−2. After the transition into the leveling-off period, sunshine duration trends are no longer significantly affected by urbanization. Meanwhile, the number of laws and regulations related to air pollution and investment in pollution treatment have been increasing in China.

Short summary
Through the selection of 172 urban–rural station pairs, this study noted that urbanization significantly influenced the dimming trend in sunshine duration in China from 1960 until it leveled off after 1990. During 1960–1989, rural dimming was around two-thirds the rate of urban dimming; this ratio generally shows a positive correlation with urbanization level. There may be an overestimation of dimming in China when a dataset with more urban-scale sites than rural-scale sites is applied.