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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Nov 2018

Research article | 15 Nov 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Submicron aerosol composition in the world's most polluted megacity: The Delhi Aerosol Supersite campaign

Shahzad Gani1, Sahil Bhandari2, Sarah Seraj1, Dongyu S. Wang2, Kanan Patel2, Prashant Soni3, Zainab Arub3, Gazala Habib3, Lea Hildebrandt Ruiz2, and Joshua Apte1 Shahzad Gani et al.
  • 1Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas, USA
  • 2McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas, USA
  • 3Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, New Delhi, India

Abstract. Delhi, India routinely experiences some of the world's highest urban particulate matter concentrations. We established the Delhi Aerosol Supersite campaign to provide long-term characterization of the ambient submicron aerosol composition in Delhi. Here we report on 1.25 years of highly time resolved speciated submicron particulate matter (PM1) data, including black carbon (BC) and non-refractory PM1 (NR-PM1), which we combine to develop a composition-based estimate of PM1 (“C-PM1” = BC + NR-PM1) concentrations.

We observed marked seasonal and diurnal variability in the concentration and composition of PM1 owing to the interactions of sources and atmospheric processes. Winter was the most polluted period of the year with average C-PM1 mass concentrations of ~210 μg m−3. Monsoon was hot and rainy, consequently making it the least polluted (C-PM1 ~50 μg m−3) period. Organics constituted more than half of the C-PM1 for all seasons and times of day. While ammonium, chloride and nitrate each were ~10% of the C-PM1 for the cooler months, BC and sulfate contributed ~5% each. For the warmer periods, the fractional contribution of BC and sulfate to C-PM1 increased and the chloride contribution decreased to less than 2%. The seasonal and diurnal variation in absolute mass loadings were generally consistent with changes in ventilation coefficients, with higher concentrations for periods with unfavorable meteorology—low planetary boundary layer height and low wind speeds. However, the variation in C-PM1 composition was influenced by temporally varying sources, photochemistry and gas-particle partitioning. During cool periods when wind was from the northwest, episodic hourly averaged chloride concentrations reached 50–100 μg m−3, ranking among the highest chloride concentrations reported anywhere in the world.

We estimated the contribution of primary emissions and secondary processes to Delhi's submicron aerosol. Secondary species contributed almost 50–70% of Delhi's C-PM1 mass for the winter and spring months, and up to 60–80% for the warmer summer and monsoon months. For the cooler months that had the highest C-PM1 concentrations, the nighttime sources were skewed towards primary sources, while the daytime C-PM1 was dominated by secondary species. Overall, these findings point to the important effects of both primary emissions and more regional atmospheric chemistry on influencing the extreme particle concentrations that impact the Delhi megacity region. Future air quality strategies considering Delhi's situation in both a regional and local context will be more effective than policies targeting only local, primary air pollutants.

Shahzad Gani et al.
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Shahzad Gani et al.
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Short summary
Delhi experiences particulate matter concentrations that are among the highest in the world. We conducted a long-term campaign to make highly time-resolved measurements of submicron particle (PM1) chemical composition in Delhi. Our dataset illuminates key sources and atmospheric processes that impact Delhi's PM1 concentrations, with sharp differences among seasons and between day and night. In addition to local sources, Delhi's PM1 levels are amplified by regional pollution and meteorology.
Delhi experiences particulate matter concentrations that are among the highest in the world. We...