Articles | Volume 12, issue 21
Research article
05 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 05 Nov 2012

Physical and chemical properties of the regional mixed layer of Mexico's Megapolis Part II: evaluation of measured and modeled trace gases and particle size distributions

C. Ochoa, D. Baumgardner, M. Grutter, J. Allan, J. Fast, and B. Rappenglueck

Abstract. This study extends the work of Baumgardner et al. (2009) in which measurements of trace gases and particles, at a remote, high altitude mountain site, 60 km from Mexico City were analyzed with respect to the origin of the air masses. In the current evaluation, the temperature, water vapor mixing ratio (WMR), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and acyl peroxy nitrate (APN) are simulated with the WRF-Chem chemical transport model and compared with the measurements at the mountain site. Comparisons between the model and measurements are also evaluated for particle size distributions (PSDs) of the mass concentrations of sulfate, nitrate, ammonium and organic mass (OM). The model predictions of the diurnal trends in temperature, WMR and trace gases were generally well correlated; 13 of the 18 correlations were significant at a confidence level of <0.01. Less satisfactory were the average hourly differences between model and measurements that showed predicted values within expected, natural variation for only 10 of the 18 comparisons. The model performed best when comparing with the measurements during periods when the air originated from the east. In that case all six of the parameters being compared had average differences between the model and measurements less than the expected standard deviation. For the cases when the air masses are from the southwest or west northwest, only two of the comparisons from each case showed differences less than the expected standard deviation. The differences appear to be a result of an overly rapid growth of the boundary layer predicted by the model and too much dilution. There also is more O3 being produced, most likely by photochemical production, downwind of the emission sources than is predicted by the model.

The measured and modeled PSD compare very well with respect to their general shape and the diameter of the peak concentrations. The spectra are log normally distributed with most of the mass in the accumulation mode centered at 200 ± 20 nm and little observed or predicted changes with respect to the time when the RML is above the Altzomoni research station. Only the total mass changes with time and air mass origin. The invariability of average diameter of the accumulation mode suggests that there is very little growth of the particles by condensation or coagulation after six hours of aging downwind of the major sources of anthropogenic emissions in Mexico's Megapolis. This could greatly simplify parameterization in climate models although it is not known at this time if this invariance can be extended to other megacity regions.

Final-revised paper