28 Aug 2023
 | 28 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Impact of urbanization on fine particulate matter concentrations over central Europe

Peter Huszar, Alvaro Patricio Prieto Perez, Lukáš Bartík, Jan Karlický, and Anahi Villalba-Pradas

Abstract. The rural-to-urban transformation (RUT) is the process of turning rural or natural land-surface into urban one which brings important modifications in the surface causing well know effects like the urban heat island (UHI), reduced wind-speeds, increased boundary layer heights and so on. Moreover, with concentrated human activities RUT introduces new emission source which greatly perturbs the local and regional air-pollution. Particulate matter (PM) is one of key pollutants responsible for deterioration of urban air-quality and is still a major issue in European cities with frequent exceedances of limit values. Here we introduce a regional chemistry-climate model (regional climate model RegCM coupled offline to chemistry transport model CAMx) study which quantifies how the process of RUT modified the PM concentrations over central Europe including the underlying controlling mechanisms that contribute to the final PM pollution. Apart from the two most studied ones, i) the urban emissions and ii) the urban canopy meteorological forcing (UCMF, i.e. the impact of modified meteorological conditions on air-quality) we analyze also two less studied contributors to the RUT’s impact on air-quality: iii) the impact of modified dry-deposition velocities due to urbanized land-use and iv) the impact of modified biogenic emissions due to urbanization induced vegetation modifications and changes in meteorological conditions which affect these emissions. To calculate the magnitude of each of these RUT contributors, we perform a cascade of simulations were each contributor is added one-by-one to the reference state while focus is given on PM2.5 (particulate matter with diameter less then 2.5 µm). We also look at their primary and secondary components, namely primary elemental carbon (PEC), sulphates (PSO4), nitrates (PNO3), ammonium (PNH4) and secondary organic aerosol (SOA).

The validation using surface measurements showed a systematic negative bias for the total PM2.5 which is probably caused by underestimated organic aerosol and partly by the negative bias in sulphates and elemental carbon. For ammonium and nitrate, the underestimation is limited to the warm season while for winter, the model tends to overestimate their concentrations. However, in each case, the annual cycle is reasonably captured.

We evaluated the RUT impact on PM2.5 over an ensemble of 19 central European cities and found that the total impact of urbanization is about 2–3 and 1–1.5 µgm−3 in winter and summer, respectively. This is mainly driven by the impact of emissions alone causing a slightly higher impact (1.5–3.5 and 1.2–2 µgm−3 in winter and summer), while the effect of UCMF was a decrease at about 0.2–0.5 µgm−3 (in both seasons) which was mainly controlled by enhanced vertical eddy-diffusion while increases were modelled over rural areas. The transformation of rural land-use into urban one caused an increase of dry-deposition velocities by around 30–50 % which alone resulted in a decrease of PM2.5 by 0.1–0.25 µgm−3 in both seasons. Finally, the impact of biogenic emission modification due to modified land-use and meteorological conditions caused a decrease of summer PM2.5 of about 0.1 µgm−3 while the winter effects were negligible. The total impact of urbanization on aerosol components is modelled to be (values indicate winter and summer averages) 0.4 and 0.3 µgm−3 for PEC, 0.05 and 0.02 µgm−3 for PSO4, 0.1 and 0.08 µgm−3 for PNO3, 0.04 and 0.03 µgm−3 for PNH4 and 0 and 0.05 µgm−3 for SOA. The main contributor of each of these components was the impact of emissions which was usually larger than the total impact due to the fact that UCMF counteracted with a decrease. For each aerosol component the impact of modified DV was a clear decrease of concentration and finally, the modifications of biogenic emissions impacted predominantly SOA causing a summer decrease while a very small secondary effect of secondary inorganic aerosol was modelled too (they increased).

In summary, we showed that when analyzing the impact of urbanization on PM pollution, apart from the impact of emissions and the urban canopy meteorological forcing, one has to consider also the effect of modified land-use and its impact on dry-deposition. These were shown to be important in both seasons. For the effect of modified biogenic emissions, our calculations showed that it acts on PM2.5 predominantly trough SOA modifications which turned to be important only during summer.

Peter Huszar et al.

Status: open (until 09 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Peter Huszar et al.

Peter Huszar et al.


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Short summary
Urbanization transforms rural land into artificial one, while due to human activities, it also introduces a great quantity of emissions. We attempt to quantify the impact of urbanization on the final particulate matter pollutant levels by looking not only at these emissions, but also the way urban land cover influences meteorological conditions, how the removal of pollutants changes due to urban land cover, and how biogenic emissions from vegetation change due to less vegetation in urban areas.