Variabilities in ozone at a semi-urban site in the Indo-Gangetic Plain region: Association with the meteorology and regional processes



[1] The Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) region is one of the most densely populated regions in the World, but ground-based observations of air pollutants are highly limited in this region. Here, surface ozone observations made during March 2009–June 2011 at a semi-urban site (Pantnagar; 29.0°N, 79.5°E, 231 m amsl) in the IGP region are presented. Ozone mixing ratios show a daytime photochemical buildup with ozone levels sometimes as high as 100 ppbv. Seasonal variation in 24-h average ozone shows a distinct spring maximum (39.3 ± 18.9 ppbv in May) while daytime (1130–1630 h) average ozone shows an additional peak during autumn (48.7 ± 13.8 ppbv in November). The daytime, but not daily average, observed ozone seasonality is in agreement with the space-borne observations of OMI tropospheric column NO2, TES CO (681 hPa), surface ozone observations at a nearby high altitude site (Nainital) in the central Himalayas and to an extent with results from a global chemistry transport model (MATCH-MPIC). It is suggested that spring and autumn ozone maximum are mainly due to photochemistry, involving local pollutants and small-scale dynamical processes. Biomass burning activity over the northern Indian region could act as an additional source of ozone precursors during spring. The seasonal ozone photochemical buildup is estimated to be 32–41 ppbv during spring and autumn and 9–14 ppbv during August–September. A correlation analysis between ozone levels at Pantnagar and Nainital along with the mixing depth data suggests that emissions and photochemical processes in the IGP region influence the air quality of pristine Himalayan region, particularly during midday hours of spring. The evening rate of change (8.5 ppbv hr−1) is higher than the morning rate of change, which is dissimilar to those at other urban or rural sites. Ozone seasonality over the IGP region is different than that over southern India. Results from the MATCH-MPIC model capture observed ozone seasonality but overestimate ozone levels. Model simulated daytime ratios of H2O2/HNO3 are higher and suggesting that this region is in a NOx-limited regime. A chemical box model (NACR Master Mechanism) is used to further corroborate this using a set of sensitivity simulations, and to estimate the integrated net ozone production in a day (72.9 ppbv) at this site.