In situ ozone production is highly sensitive to volatile organic compounds in Delhi, India

Beth S. Nelson*, Gareth J. Stewart, Will S. Drysdale, Mike J. Newland, Adam R. Vaughan, Rachel E. Dunmore, Pete M. Edwards, Alastair C. Lewis, Jacqueline F. Hamilton, W. Joe Acton, C. Nicholas Hewitt, Leigh R. Crilley, Mohammed S. Alam, Ülkü A. Åahin, David C.S. Beddows, William J. Bloss, Eloise Slater, Lisa K. Whalley, Dwayne E. Heard, James M. CashBen Langford, Eiko Nemitz, Roberto Sommariva, Sam Cox, Shivani, Ranu Gadi, Bhola R. Gurjar, James R. Hopkins, Andrew R. Rickard, James D. Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


The Indian megacity of Delhi suffers from some of the poorest air quality in the world. While ambient NO2 and particulate matter (PM) concentrations have received considerable attention in the city, high ground-level ozone (O3) concentrations are an often overlooked component of pollution. O3 can lead to significant ecosystem damage and agricultural crop losses, and adversely affect human health. During October 2018, concentrations of speciated non-methane hydrocarbon volatile organic compounds (C2-C13), oxygenated volatile organic compounds (o-VOCs), NO, NO2, HONO, CO, SO2, O3, and photolysis rates, were continuously measured at an urban site in Old Delhi. These observations were used to constrain a detailed chemical box model utilising the Master Chemical Mechanism v3.3.1. VOCs and NOx (NO + NO2) were varied in the model to test their impact on local O3 production rates, P(O3), which revealed a VOC-limited chemical regime. When only NOx concentrations were reduced, a significant increase in P(O3) was observed; thus, VOC co-reduction approaches must also be considered in pollution abatement strategies. Of the VOCs examined in this work, mean morning P(O3) rates were most sensitive to monoaromatic compounds, followed by monoterpenes and alkenes, where halving their concentrations in the model led to a 15.6 %, 13.1 %, and 12.9 % reduction in P(O3), respectively. P(O3) was not sensitive to direct changes in aerosol surface area but was very sensitive to changes in photolysis rates, which may be influenced by future changes in PM concentrations. VOC and NOx concentrations were divided into emission source sectors, as described by the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) v5.0 Global Air Pollutant Emissions and EDGAR v4.3.2_VOC_spec inventories, allowing for the impact of individual emission sources on P(O3) to be investigated. Reducing road transport emissions only, a common strategy in air pollution abatement strategies worldwide, was found to increase P(O3), even when the source was removed in its entirety. Effective reduction in P(O3) was achieved by reducing road transport along with emissions from combustion for manufacturing and process emissions. Modelled P(O3) reduced by ∼1/4 20 ppb h-1 when these combined sources were halved. This study highlights the importance of reducing VOCs in parallel with NOx and PM in future pollution abatement strategies in Delhi.f

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13609-13630
Number of pages22
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge Pawel Misztal and Brian Davison for their involvement in operating the PTR-QiTOF, and Tuhin Mandal at CSIR-National Physical Laboratory for his support in facilitating the measurement sites used in this project. This work was supported by the Newton Bhabha fund administered by the UK Natural Environment Research Council through the DelhiFlux and ASAP projects of the Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health in an Indian Megacity (APHH-India) programme. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the UK Natural Environment Research Council and the Earth System Science Organization, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India, under the Indo-UK Joint Collaboration (DelhiFlux). Beth S. Nelson and Gareth J. Stewart acknowledge the NERC SPHERES doctoral training programme for studentships. James M. Cash is supported by a NERC E3 DTP studentship.

Financial support
This research has been supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant nos. NE/P016502/1 and NE/P01643X/1) and the Govt. of India, Ministry of Earth Sciences (grant no. MoES/16/19/2017/APHH, DelhiFlux).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'In situ ozone production is highly sensitive to volatile organic compounds in Delhi, India'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this