Assessing London CO2, CH4 and CO emissions using aircraft measurements and dispersion modelling

Joseph Pitt, Grant Allen, Stéphane Bauguitte, Martin Gallagher, James D. Lee, Will Drysdale, Bethany Nelson, Alistair Manning, Paul Palmer

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    Abstract. We present a new modelling approach for assessing atmospheric emissions from a city, using an aircraft measurement sampling strategy similar to that employed by previous mass balance studies. Unlike conventional mass balance methods, our approach does not assume that city-scale emissions are confined to a well-defined urban area and that peri-urban emissions are negligible. We apply our new approach to a case study conducted in March 2016, investigating CO, CH4 and CO2 emissions from London using aircraft sampling of the downwind plume. For each species, we simulate the flux per unit area that would be observed at the aircraft sampling locations based on emissions from the UK national inventory, transported using a Lagrangian dispersion model. To reconcile this simulation with the measured flux per unit area, assuming the transport model is not biased, we require that inventory values of CO, CH4, and CO2 are scaled by 1.00, 0.70, and 1.57, respectively. However, our result for CO2 must be treated with strong caution as we do not account for the influence of the land and ocean biosphere in this work.

    For comparison, we also calculate fluxes using a conventional mass balance approach and compare these to the emissions inventory aggregated over the Greater London area. Using this method we derive much higher inventory scale factors for all three gases, as a direct consequence of neglecting emissions outside the Greater London boundary. That substantially different conclusions are drawn using the conventional mass balance method demonstrates the danger of using this technique for cities whose emissions cannot be separated from significant surrounding sources.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    Number of pages22
    JournalAtmos. Chem. Phys
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2019


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