Articles | Volume 14, issue 19
Research article
10 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 10 Oct 2014

Surface gas pollutants in Lhasa, a highland city of Tibet – current levels and pollution implications

L. Ran, W. L. Lin, Y. Z. Deji, B. La, P. M. Tsering, X. B. Xu, and W. Wang

Abstract. Through several years of development, the city of Lhasa has become one of the most populated and urbanized areas on the highest plateau in the world. In the process of urbanization, current and potential air quality issues have been gradually concerned. To investigate the current status of air pollution in Lhasa, various gas pollutants including NOx, CO, SO2, and O3, were continuously measured from June 2012 to May 2013 at an urban site (29.40° N, 91.08° E, 3650 m a.s.l.). The seasonal variations of primary gas pollutants exhibited a peak from November to January with a large variability. High mixing ratios of primary trace gases almost exclusively occurred under low wind speed and showed no distinct dependence on wind direction, implying local urban emissions to be predominant. A comparison of NO2, CO, and SO2 mixing ratios in summer between 1998 and 2012 indicated a significant increase in emissions of these gas pollutants and a change in their intercorrelations, as a result of a substantial growth in the demand of energy consumption using fossil fuels instead of previously widely used biomass. The pronounced diurnal double peaks of primary trace gases in all seasons suggested automobile exhaust to be a major emission source in Lhasa. The secondary gas pollutant O3 displayed an average diurnal cycle of a shallow flat peak for about 4–5 h in the afternoon and a minimum in the early morning. Nighttime O3 was sometimes completely consumed by the high level of NOx. Seasonally, the variations of O3 mixing ratios displayed a low valley in winter and a peak in spring. In autumn and winter, transport largely contributed to the observed O3 mixing ratios, given its dependence on wind speed and wind direction, while in spring and summer photochemistry played an important role. A more efficient buildup of O3 mixing ratios in the morning and a higher peak in the afternoon was found in summer 2012 than in 1998. An enhancement in O3 mixing ratios would be expected in the future and more attention should be given to O3 photochemistry in response to increasing precursor emissions in this area.

Final-revised paper