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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 27 Nov 2018

Research article | 27 Nov 2018

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

Contributions to local and regional-scale formaldehyde concentrations

Lucas Bastien1,2, Nancy Brown2, and Robert Harley1,2 Lucas Bastien et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley CA 94720, USA
  • 2Energy Analysis and Environmental Impacts Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley CA 94720, USA

Abstract. Reducing ambient formaldehyde concentrations is a complex task because formaldehyde is both a primary and a secondary air pollutant, with significant anthropogenic and biogenic sources of volatile organic compounds (VOC) precursor emissions. This work uses adjoint sensitivity analysis in a chemical transport model to identify emission sources and chemical reactions that influence formaldehyde mixing ratios in the San Francisco Bay Area, and within three urbanized sub-areas. For each of these receptors, the use of the adjoint technique allows for efficient calculation of the sensitivity of formaldehyde to emissions of NOx, formaldehyde, and VOC precursors occurring at any location and time. Formaldehyde mixing ratios are found to be generally higher in summer than in winter. The opposite seasonal trend is observed for the sensitivities of these mixing ratios to formaldehyde emissions. In other words, even though formaldehyde is higher in summer, reducing formaldehyde emissions has a greater impact in winter. In winter, 85–90 % of the sensitivity to emissions is attributed to direct formaldehyde emissions. In summer, this contribution is smaller and more variable, ranging from 26 to 72 % among the receptor areas investigated in this study. Higher relative contributions of secondary formation versus direct emissions are associated with receptors located farther away from heavily urbanized and emission-rich areas. In particular, the relative contribution of biogenic VOC emissions (15–41 % in summer) is largest for these receptors. Ethene and other alkenes are the most influential anthropogenic precursors to secondary formaldehyde. Isoprene is the most influential biogenic precursor. Sensitivities of formaldehyde to NOx emissions are generally negative, but small in magnitude compared to sensitivities to VOC emissions. The magnitude of anthropogenic emissions of organic compounds other than formaldehyde is found to correlate reasonably well with their influence on population-weighted formaldehyde mixing ratios at the air basin scale. This correlation does not hold for ambient formaldehyde in smaller urbanized sub-areas. The magnitude of biogenic emissions does not correlate with their influence in either case.

Lucas Bastien et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Lucas Bastien et al.
Lucas Bastien et al.
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Short summary
This work uses a computer model to identify emission sources and chemical reactions that influence ambient formaldehyde (a carcinogenic pollutant) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Results suggest that for some locations, in order to control summer-season formaldehyde concentrations, controlling emissions of other pollutants can be as efficient as controlling emissions of formaldehyde. In winter, however, it is more efficient to control emissions of formaldehyde than emissions of other species.
This work uses a computer model to identify emission sources and chemical reactions that...