Articles | Volume 17, issue 18
Research article
15 Sep 2017
Research article |  | 15 Sep 2017

Monitoring shipping emissions in the German Bight using MAX-DOAS measurements

André Seyler, Folkard Wittrock, Lisa Kattner, Barbara Mathieu-Üffing, Enno Peters, Andreas Richter, Stefan Schmolke, and John P. Burrows

Abstract. A 3-year time series of ground-based multi-axis differential optical absorption spectroscopy (MAX-DOAS) measurements of NO2 and SO2 on the island Neuwerk has been analyzed for contributions from shipping emissions. The island is located in the German Bight, close to the main shipping lane (at a distance of 6–7 km) into the river Elbe towards the harbor of Hamburg. Measurements of individual ship plumes as well as of background pollution are possible from this location. A simple approach using the column amounts of the oxygen molecule dimer or collision complex, O4, for the determination of the horizontal light path length has been applied to retrieve path-averaged volume mixing ratios. An excellent agreement between mixing ratios determined from NO2 retrievals in the UV and visible parts of the spectrum has been found, showing the validity of the approach. Obtained mixing ratios of NO2 and SO2 are compared to co-located in situ measurements showing good correlation on average but also a systematic underestimation by the MAX-DOAS O4 scaling approach. Comparing data before and after the introduction of stricter fuel sulfur content limits (from 1 to 0.1 %) on 1 January 2015 in the North Sea Emission Control Area (ECA), a significant reduction in SO2 levels is observed. For situations with wind from the open North Sea, where ships are the only local source of air pollution, the average mixing ratio of SO2 decreased by a factor of 8, while for NO2 in the whole time series from 2013 to 2016, no significant change in emissions was observed. More than 2000 individual ship emission plumes have been identified in the data and analyzed for the emission ratio of SO2 to NO2, yielding an average ratio of 0.3 for the years 2013/2014 and decreasing significantly, presumably due to lower fuel sulfur content, in 2015/2016. By sorting measurements according to the prevailing wind direction and selecting two angular reference sectors representative for wind from the open North Sea and coast excluding data with mixed air mass origin, relative contributions of ships and land-based sources to air pollution levels in the German Bight have been estimated to be around 40 % : 60 % for NO2 as well as SO2 in 2013/2014, dropping to 14 % : 86 % for SO2 in 2015/2016.

Short summary
Shipping accounts for a significant part of the emissions from the transportation sector. We have analyzed 3 years of MAX-DOAS measurements of NO2 and SO2 from a small island in the German Bight, showing that despite the vicinity to the shipping lane, the contribution of shipping sources to air pollution is only about 40 %. The implementation of stricter fuel sulfur limits led to a significant reduction in SO2-to-NO2 ratios in shipping emissions and ambient SO2 levels at the German coast.
Final-revised paper