05 Apr 2023
 | 05 Apr 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Quantifying effects of long-range transport of air pollutants over Delhi using back-trajectories and satellite NO2 data

Ailish Melissa Graham, Richard J. Pope, Martyn P. Chipperfield, Sandip S. Dhomse, Matila Pimlott, Wuhu Feng, Vikas Singh, Ying Chen, Oliver Wild, Ranjeet Sokhi, and Gufran Beig

Abstract. Exposure to air pollution is a leading public health risk factor in India, especially over densely populated Delhi and the surrounding Indo-Gangetic Plain. During the post-monsoon months, the prevailing north-westerly winds are known to influence aerosol pollution events in Delhi, by advecting pollutants from agricultural fires as well as from local sources. Here we investigate the year-round impact of meteorology on gaseous nitrogen oxides (NOx = NO + NO2), a hazardous primary air pollutant for health, which can lead to the formation of secondary aerosols and ozone. We use bottom-up NOx emission inventories (anthropogenic and fire) and high-resolution satellite measurement based tropospheric column NO2 (TCNO2) data, from S5P on-board TROPOMI, alongside a back-trajectory model (ROTRAJ) to investigate the balance of local and external sources influencing air pollution changes in Delhi, with a focus on different emission sectors. Our analysis shows that accumulated emissions (i.e. integrated along the trajectory path, allowing for chemical loss) are highest under westerly, north-westerly and northerly flow during pre- (February–March) and post- (October–January) monsoon periods. During the pre-monsoon period, the residential and transport sectors together account for more than 50 % of the total accumulated emissions, which are dominated by local sources (90 %) under easterly winds and by non-local sources (> 70 %) under north-westerly winds. The high accumulated emissions estimated during the pre-monsoon season under north-westerly wind directions are likely to be driven by high NOx emissions locally and in nearby regions (since NOx lifetime is reduced and the boundary layer is relatively deeper in this period). During the post-monsoon period non-local (60 %) transport emissions are the largest contributor to the total accumulated emissions as high emissions, coupled with a relatively long NOx atmospheric lifetime and shallow boundary-layer aid the build-up of emissions along the trajectory path. Analysis of surface daily NO2 observations indicates that high pollution episodes (> 90th percentile) occur predominantly in the post-monsoon and more than 75 % of high pollution events are primarily caused by non-local sources. Overall, we find that in the post-monsoon period, there is a substantial import of NOx pollution into Delhi with a large contribution from the transport sector. This work indicates that the advection of highly polluted air originating from outside Delhi is of concern for the population and air quality mitigation strategies need to be adopted not only in Delhi but in the surrounding regions to successfully control this issue. In addition, our analysis suggests that the largest benefits to Delhi NOx air quality would be seen with targeted reductions in emissions from the transport sector, particularly during post-monsoon months.

Ailish Melissa Graham et al.

Status: open (extended)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-382', Anonymous Referee #2, 27 May 2023 reply

Ailish Melissa Graham et al.

Ailish Melissa Graham et al.


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Short summary
Our manuscript makes use of novel satellite data sets and high-resolution emissions datasets alongside a back trajectory model to investigate the balance of local and external sources influencing NOx air pollution changes in Delhi, with a focus on different emission sectors. We find that in the post-monsoon, NOx, which is mostly from the transport sector, is imported into Delhi. Therefore air quality mitigation strategies in Delhi and the surrounding regions to successfully control this issue.