Assessing the representativity of NH3 measurements influenced by boundary-layer dynamics and the turbulent dispersion of a nearby emission source

Ruben B. Schulte*, Margreet C. van Zanten, Bart J.H. Van Stratum, Jordi Vilà-Guerau de Arellano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study presents a fine-scale simulation approach to assess the representativity of ammonia (NH3) measurements in the proximity of an emission source. Close proximity to emission sources (< 5 km) can introduce a bias in regionally representative measurements of the NH3 molar fraction and flux. Measurement sites should, therefore, be located a significant distance away from emission sources, but these requirements are poorly defined and can be difficult to meet in densely agricultural regions. This study presents a consistent criterion to assess the regional representativity of NH3 measurements in proximity to an emission source, calculating variables that quantify the NH3 plume dispersion using a series of numerical experiments at a fine resolution (20 m). Our fine-scale simulation framework with explicitly resolved turbulence enables us to distinguish between the background NH3 and the emission plume, including realistic representations of NH3 deposition and chemical gas–aerosol transformations. We introduce the concept of blending distance based on the calculation of turbulent fluctuations to systematically analyze the impact of the emission plume on simulated measurements, relative to this background NH3. We perform a suite of systematic numerical experiments for flat homogeneous grasslands, centered around the CESAR Observatory at Cabauw, to analyze the sensitivity of the blending distance, varying meteorological factors, emission/deposition and NH3 dependences. Considering these sensitivities, we find that NH3 measurements at this measurement site should be located at a minimum distance of 0.5–3.0 and 0.75–4.5 km from an emission source for NH3 molar fraction and flux measurements, respectively. The simulation framework presented here can easily be adapted to local conditions, and paves the way for future ammonia research to integrate simulations at high spatio-temporal resolutions with observations of NH3 concentrations and fluxes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8241-8257
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the representativity of NH3 measurements influenced by boundary-layer dynamics and the turbulent dispersion of a nearby emission source'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this