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Keywords:

  • formaldehyde;
  • tropospheric oxidation;
  • urban pollution;
  • alkene oxidation;
  • petrochemical facility emissions

[1] Airborne formaldehyde (CH2O) measurements were made by tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) at high time resolution (1 and 10 s) and precision (±400 and ±120 parts per trillion by volume (pptv) (2σ), respectively) during the Texas Air Quality Study (TexAQS) 2000. Measurement accuracy was corroborated by in-flight calibrations and zeros and by overflight comparison with a ground-based differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS) system. Throughout the campaign, the highest levels of CH2O precursors and volatile organic compound (VOC) reactivity were measured in petrochemical plumes. Correspondingly, CH2O and ozone production was greatly enhanced in petrochemical plumes compared with plumes dominated by power plant and mobile source emissions. The photochemistry of several isolated petrochemical facility plumes was accurately modeled using three nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) (ethene (C2H4), propene (C3H6) (both anthropogenic), and isoprene (C5H8) (biogenic)) and was in accord with standard hydroxyl radical (OH)-initiated chemistry. Measurement-inferred facility emissions of ethene and propene were far larger than reported by inventories. Substantial direct CH2O emissions were not detected from petrochemical facilities. The rapid production of CH2O and ozone observed in a highly polluted plume (30+ parts per billion by volume (ppbv) CH2O and 200+ ppbv ozone) originating over Houston was well replicated by a model employing only two NMHCs, ethene and propene.