Assessing chemistry schemes and constraints in air quality models used to predict ozone in London against the detailed Master Chemical Mechanism
Air pollution is the environmental factor with the greatest impact on human health in Europe. Understanding the key processes driving air quality across the relevant spatial scales, especially during pollution exceedances and episodes, is essential to provide effective predictions for both policymakers and the public. It is particularly important for policy regulators to understand the drivers of local air quality that can be regulated by national policies versus the contribution from regional pollution transported from mainland Europe or elsewhere. One of the main objectives of the Coupled Urban and Regional processes: Effects on AIR quality (CUREAIR) project is to determine local and regional contributions to ozone events. A detailed zero-dimensional (0-D) box model run with the Master Chemical Mechanism (MCMv3.2) is used as the benchmark model against which the less explicit chemistry mechanisms of the Generic Reaction Set (GRS) and the Common Representative Intermediates (CRIv2-R5) schemes are evaluated. GRS and CRI are used by the Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling System (ADMS-Urban) and the regional chemistry transport model EMEP4UK, respectively. The MCM model uses a near-explicit chemical scheme for the oxidation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is constrained to observations of VOCs, NOx, CO, HONO (nitrous acid), photolysis frequencies and meteorological parameters measured during the ClearfLo (Clean Air for London) campaign. The sensitivity of the less explicit chemistry schemes to different model inputs has been investigated: Constraining GRS to the total VOC observed during ClearfLo as opposed to VOC derived from ADMS-Urban dispersion calculations, including emissions and background concentrations, led to a significant increase (674% during winter) in modelled ozone. The inclusion of HONO chemistry in this mechanism, particularly during wintertime when other radical sources are limited, led to substantial increases in the ozone levels predicted (223%). When the GRS and CRIv2-R5 schemes are run with the equivalent model constraints to the MCM, they are able to reproduce the level of ozone predicted by the near-explicit MCM to within 40% and 20% respectively for the majority of the time. An exception to this trend was observed during pollution episodes experienced in the summer, when anticyclonic conditions favoured increased temperatures and elevated O3. The in situ O3 predicted by the MCM was heavily influenced by biogenic VOCs during these conditions and the low GRS [O3]:MCM [O3] ratio (and low CRIv2-R5 [O3]:MCM [O3] ratio) demonstrates that these less explicit schemes under-represent the full O3 creation potential of these VOCs. To fully assess the influence of the in situ O3 generated from local emissions versus O3 generated upwind of London and advected in, the time since emission (and, hence, how far the real atmosphere is from steady state) must be determined. From estimates of the mean transport time determined from the NOx:NOy ratio observed at North Kensington during the summer and comparison of the O3 predicted by the MCM model after this time, ∼60% of the median observed [O3] could be generated from local emissions. During the warmer conditions experienced during the easterly flows, however, the observed [O3] may be even more heavily influenced by London's emissions.