What caused the extreme CO concentrations during the 2017 high-pollution episode in India?

Iris N. Dekker*, Sander Houweling, Sudhanshu Pandey, Maarten Krol, Thomas Röckmann, Tobias Borsdorff, Jochen Landgraf, Ilse Aben

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI), launched 13 October 2017, has been measuring carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere since early November 2017. In the first measurements, TROPOMI was able to measure CO concentrations of the high-pollution event in India of November 2017. In this paper, we studied the extent of the pollution in India, comparing the TROPOMI CO with modeled data from the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) to identify the most important sources contributing to the high pollution, both at ground level and in the total column. We investigated the period 11-19 November 2017. We found that residential and commercial combustion was a much more important source of CO pollution than the post-monsoon crop burning during this period, which is in contrast to what media suggested and some studies on aerosol emissions found. Also, the high pollution was not limited to Delhi and its direct neighborhood but the accumulation of pollution extended over the whole Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) due to the unfavorable weather conditions in combination with extensive emissions. From the TROPOMI data and WRF simulations, we observed a buildup of CO during 11-14 November and a decline in CO after 15 November. The meteorological conditions, characterized by low wind speeds and shallow atmospheric boundary layers, were most likely the primary explanation for the temporal accumulation and subsequent dispersion of regionally emitted CO in the atmosphere. This emphasizes the important role of atmospheric dynamics in determining the air quality conditions at ground level and in the total column. Due to its rapidly growing population and economy, India is expected to encounter similar pollution events more often in future post-monsoon and winter seasons unless significant policy measures are taken to reduce residential and commercial emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3433-3445
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Volume19
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2019

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