Quantifying effects of long-range transport of NO2 over Delhi using back trajectories and satellite data

Ailish M. Graham, Richard J. Pope, Martyn P. Chipperfield, Sandip S. Dhomse, Matilda Pimlott, Wuhu Feng, Vikas Singh, Ying Chen, Oliver Wild, Ranjeet Sokhi, Gufran Beig

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Exposure to air pollution is a leading public health risk factor in India, especially over densely populated Delhi and the surrounding Indo-Gangetic Plain. During the post-monsoon seasons, the prevailing north-westerly winds are known to influence aerosol pollution events in Delhi by advecting pollutants from agricultural fires as well as from local sources. Here we investigate the year-round impact of meteorology on gaseous nitrogen oxides (NOxCombining double low lineNO+NO2). We use bottom-up NOx emission inventories (anthropogenic and fire) and high-resolution satellite measurement based tropospheric column NO2 (TCNO2) data, from S5P aboard TROPOMI, alongside a back-trajectory model (ROTRAJ) to investigate the balance of local and external sources influencing air pollution changes in Delhi, with a focus on different emissions sectors. Our analysis shows that accumulated emissions (i.e. integrated along the trajectory path, allowing for chemical loss) are highest under westerly, north-westerly and northerly flow during pre-monsoon (February-May) and post-monsoon (October-February) seasons. According to this analysis, during the pre-monsoon season, the highest accumulated satellite TCNO2 trajectories come from the east and north-west of Delhi. TCNO2 is elevated within Delhi and the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) to the east of city. The accumulated NOx emission trajectories indicate that the transport and industry sectors together account for more than 80% of the total accumulated emissions, which are dominated by local sources (>70%) under easterly winds and north-westerly winds. The high accumulated emissions estimated during the pre-monsoon season under north-westerly wind directions are likely to be driven by high NOx emissions locally and in nearby regions (since NOx lifetime is reduced and the boundary layer is relatively deeper in this season). During the post-monsoon season the highest accumulated satellite TCNO2 trajectories are advected from Punjab and Haryana, where satellite TCNO2 is elevated, indicating the potential for the long-range transport of agricultural burning emissions to Delhi. However, accumulated NOx emissions indicate local (70%) emissions from the transport sector are the largest contributor to the total accumulated emissions. High local emissions, coupled with a relatively long NOx atmospheric lifetime and shallow boundary layer, aid the build-up of emissions locally and along the trajectory path. This indicates the possibility that fire emissions datasets may not capture emissions from agricultural waste burning in the north-west sufficiently to accurately quantify their influence on Delhi air quality (AQ). Analysis of daily ground-based NO2 observations indicates that high-pollution episodes (>90th percentile) occur predominantly in the post-monsoon season, and more than 75% of high-pollution events are primarily caused by local sources. But there is also a considerable influence from non-local (30%) emissions from the transport sector during the post-monsoon season. Overall, we find that in the post-monsoon season, there is substantial accumulation of high local NOx emissions from the transport sector (70% of total emissions, 70% local), alongside the import of NOx pollution into Delhi (30% non-local). This work indicates that both high local NOx emissions from the transport sector and the advection of highly polluted air originating from outside Delhi are of concern for the population. As a result, air quality mitigation strategies need to be adopted not only in Delhi but in the surrounding regions to successfully control this issue. In addition, our analysis suggests that the largest benefits to Delhi NOx air quality would be seen with targeted reductions in emissions from the transport and agricultural waste burning sectors, particularly during the post-monsoon season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-806
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2024


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