How important is biogenic isoprene in an urban environment? A study in London and Paris



[1] As the emissions of anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are reduced through regulatory measures and improved control technologies, biogenic VOCs could gain in importance in terms of reactivity, especially in urban areas. Here we investigate a 12 year record of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) in central London and the importance of biogenics (in the form of isoprene) for ozone formation through the contribution to OH reactivity. Significant reductions in NMHCs were observed from 1998 through 2009 at an urban traffic site (−13% per year) and suburban background site (−5% per year) in London. Total isoprene levels decreased similarly and the relative contribution of isoprene to the total NMHC OH reactivity did not change. Furthermore, a dataset for Paris showed strong similarities to the data from London, which would indicate that these results are not limited to London. Interestingly, a rural site to the east of London, Harwell, showed similar contributions of isoprene to the total NMHC reactivity, which may indicate the need for measurements of other biogenic species, such as monoterpenes, in some areas to reliably capture the importance of biogenics in the region. These results would indicate that the influence of biogenic isoprene in London, and likely other low isoprene emitter urban areas have a long way to go before the importance of biogenic VOCs equals or exceeds that of anthropogenic contributions.