20 Jul 2023
 | 20 Jul 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Mixing-layer-height-referenced ozone vertical distribution in the lower troposphere of Chinese megacities: Stratification, classification, meteorological, and photochemical mechanisms

Zhiheng Liao, Meng Gao, Jinqiang Zhang, Jiaren Sun, Jiannong Quan, Xingcan Jia, Yubing Pan, and Shaojia Fan

Abstract. Traditional tropospheric ozone (O3) climatology uses a simple average substantially smoothed stratification structure in individual O3 profiles, limiting our ability to properly describe and understand how O3 is vertically distributed at the interface between the mixing layer (ML) and free troposphere (FT). In this study, we collected 1,897 ozonesonde profiles from two Chinese megacities (Beijing and Hong Kong) over the period 2000–2022 to investigate climatological vertical heterogeneity of lower-tropospheric O3 distribution with a mixing-layer-height-referenced (h-referenced) vertical coordinate system. The mixing layer height (h) was first estimated following an integral method that integrates the information of temperature, humidity, and cloud. After that, a so-called h-referenced vertical distribution of O3 was determined by averaging all individual profiles expressed as a function of z/h rather than z (where z is altitude). We found that the vertical stratification of O3 is distributed heterogeneously in the lower troposphere, with stronger vertical gradients at the surface layer and ML–FT interface. There are low vertical autocorrelations of O3 between the ML and FT, but high autocorrelations within each of the two atmospheric compartments. These results suggest that the ML–FT interface acts as a geophysical “barrier” separating air masses of distinct O3 loadings. This barrier effect varies with season and city, with an ML-to-FT detrainment barrier in summer (autumn) and an FT-to-ML entrainment barrier in other seasons in Beijing (Hong Kong). Based on Student’s t test, h-referenced O3 profiles were further classified into three typical patterns: MLO3-dominated, FTO3-dominated, and uniform distribution. Although the FTO3-dominated pattern occurs most frequently during the whole study period (69 % and 54 % of days in Beijing and Hong Kong, respectively), the MLO3-dominated pattern prevails in the photochemical active season, accounting for 47 % of summer days in Beijing and 54 % of autumn days in Hong Kong. These occurrences of the MLO3-dominated pattern are significantly more frequent than in previously reported results at northern mid-latitudes, indicating intensive photochemical MLO3 production under the high-emission background of Chinese megacity. From FTO3-dominated to MLO3-dominated pattern, the O3 precursor CH2O (NO2) experiences a substantial increase (decrease) in Beijing, but a slight increase (decrease) in Hong Kong. Vertically, the increment of CH2O is larger in the upper ML and the decrement of NO2 is larger in the lower ML. Such changes in O3 precursors push O3 production sensitivity away from the VOC-limited regime and facilitate high-efficiency production of O3 via photochemical reactions, particularly in the upper ML.

Zhiheng Liao et al.

Status: open (extended)

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Zhiheng Liao et al.

Zhiheng Liao et al.


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Short summary
This study collected 1,897 ozonesondes from two Chinese megacities (Beijing and Hong Kong) in 2000–2022 to investigate climatological vertical heterogeneity of lower-tropospheric ozone distribution with a mixing-layer-height-referenced (h-referenced) vertical coordinate system. This vertical coordinate system highlighted O3 stratification features existing at the mixing layer–free troposphere interface and provided a better understanding of O3 pollution in urban regions.