Which processes drive observed variations of HCHO columns over India?
- 1National Centre for Earth Observation, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
- 2School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
- 3Atomic and Molecular Physics Division, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Abstract. We interpret HCHO column variations observed by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), aboard the NASA Aura satellite, over India during 2014 using the GEOS-Chem atmospheric chemistry and transport model. We use a nested version of the model with a horizontal resolution of approximately 25 km. HCHO columns are related to local emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with a spatial smearing that increases with the VOC lifetime. Over India, HCHO has biogenic, pyrogenic, and anthropogenic VOC sources. Using a 0-D photochemistry model, we find that isoprene has the largest molar yield of HCHO which is typically realized within a few hours. We also find that forested regions that neighbour major urban conurbations are exposed to high levels of nitrogen oxides. This results in depleted hydroxyl radical concentrations and a delay in the production of HCHO from isoprene oxidation. We find that propene is the only anthropogenic VOC emitted in major Indian cities that produces HCHO at a comparable (but slower) rate to isoprene. The GEOS-Chem model reproduces the broad-scale annual mean HCHO column distribution observed by OMI (r = 0.6), which is dominated by a distinctive meridional gradient in the northern half of the country, and by localized regions of high columns that coincide with forests. Major discrepancies are noted over the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) and Delhi. We find that the model has more skill at reproducing observations during winter (JF) and pre-monsoon (MAM) months with Pearson correlations r > 0.5 but with a positive model bias of