Articles | Volume 16, issue 3
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 1331–1352, 2016
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 1331–1352, 2016

Research article 08 Feb 2016

Research article | 08 Feb 2016

On the long-term impact of emissions from central European cities on regional air quality

P. Huszar, M. Belda, and T. Halenka P. Huszar et al.
  • Department of Atmospheric Physics, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Prague, V Holešovičkách 2, 180 00 Prague 8, Czech Republic

Abstract. For the purpose of qualifying and quantifying the impact of urban emission from Central European cities on the present-day regional air quality, the regional climate model RegCM4.2 was coupled with the chemistry transport model CAMx, including two-way interactions. A series of simulations was carried out for the 2001–2010 period either with all urban emissions included (base case) or without considering urban emissions. Further, the sensitivity of ozone production to urban emissions was examined by performing reduction experiments with −20 % emission perturbation of NOx and/or non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC).

The modeling system's air quality related outputs were evaluated using AirBase, and EMEP surface measurements showed reasonable reproduction of the monthly variation for ozone (O3), but the annual cycle of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) is more biased. In terms of hourly correlations, values achieved for ozone and NO2 are 0.5–0.8 and 0.4–0.6, but SO2 is poorly or not correlated at all with measurements (r around 0.2–0.5). The modeled fine particulates (PM2.5) are usually underestimated, especially in winter, mainly due to underestimation of nitrates and carbonaceous aerosols.

European air quality measures were chosen as metrics describing the cities emission impact on regional air pollution. Due to urban emissions, significant ozone titration occurs over cities while over rural areas remote from cities, ozone production is modeled, mainly in terms of number of exceedances and accumulated exceedances over the threshold of 40 ppbv. Urban NOx, SO2 and PM2.5 emissions also significantly contribute to concentrations in the cities themselves (up to 50–70 % for NOx and SO2, and up to 60 % for PM2.5), but the contribution is large over rural areas as well (10–20 %). Although air pollution over cities is largely determined by the local urban emissions, considerable (often a few tens of %) fraction of the concentration is attributable to other sources from rural areas and minor cities. For the case of Prague (Czech Republic capital), it is further shown that the inter-urban interference between large cities does not play an important role which means that the impact on a chosen city of emissions from all other large cities is very small. At last, it is shown that to achieve significant ozone reduction over cities in central Europe, the emission control strategies have to focus on the reduction of NMVOC, as reducing NOx (due to suppressed titration) often leads to increased O3. The influence over rural areas is however always in favor of improved air quality, i.e. both NOx and/or NMVOC reduction ends up in decreased ozone pollution, mainly in terms of exceedances.

Short summary
The study is dealing with the present day air quality impacts of the urban emissions, focusing on central Europe. Using a coupled regional climate/chemistry model we showed that urban centers impact largely (by up to 10–20 %) the regional air quality but the urban air quality itself is affected by local emission by only 50 % and the rural (non-urban) emissions and long-range transport play an important role in urban air pollution. This has to be taken into account in air quality control measures.
Final-revised paper