Multi-year observations of variable incomplete combustion in the New York megacity
Abstract. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a regulated air pollutant that impacts tropospheric chemistry and is an important indicator of the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. In this study, we used four years (2019–2022) of winter and spring (January–May) atmospheric CO observations to quantify and characterize city-scale CO enhancements (ΔCO) from the New York City metropolitan area (NYCMA). We observed large variability in ΔCO, roughly 60 % of which was explained by atmospheric transport from the surrounding surface areas to the measurement sites, with the remaining 40 % due to changes in emissions on sub-monthly timescales. We evaluated the CO emissions from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), which has been used to scale greenhouse gas emissions, and found the emissions are much too low in magnitude. During the COVID-19 shutdown in spring 2020, we observed a flattening of the diurnal pattern of CO emissions, consistent with reductions in daytime transportation. Our results highlight the role of meteorology in driving the variability of air pollutants and show that the transportation sector is unlikely to account for the non-shutdown observed CO emissions magnitude and variability, an important distinction to determine the sources of combustion emissions in urban regions like the NYCMA.
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