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

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  • Joseph R. Pitt
  • Grant Allen
  • Stephane J.B. Bauguitte
  • Martin W. Gallagher
  • James D. Lee
  • Will Drysdale
  • Beth Nelson
  • Alistair J. Manning
  • Paul I. Palmer


Publication details

JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - 12 Jul 2019
Issue number13
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)8931-8945
Original languageEnglish


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, <span classCombining double low lineCH4 and <span classCombining double low lineCO2 emissions from a region focussed around Greater 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, <span classCombining double low lineCH4 and <span classCombining double low lineCO2 are scaled by 1.03, 0.71 and 1.61, respectively. However, our result for <span classCombining double low lineCO2 should not be considered a direct comparison with the inventory which only includes anthropogenic fluxes. 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 the failure to account for 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.

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© Author(s) 2019.

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