Seasonal and Diurnal Variations in Methane and Carbon Dioxide in the Kathmandu Valley in the Foothills of the Central Himalayas (2017)

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The SusKat-ABC (Sustainable Atmosphere for the Kathmandu Valley–Atmospheric Brown Clouds) international air pollution measurement campaign was carried out from December 2012 to June 2013 in the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding regions in Nepal. The Kathmandu Valley is a bowl-shaped basin with a severe air pollution problem. This paper reports measurements of two major greenhouse gases (GHGs), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), along with the pollutant CO, that began during the campaign and were extended for 1 year at the SusKat-ABC supersite in Bode, a semi-urban location in the Kathmandu Valley. Simultaneous measurements were also made during 2015 in Bode and a nearby rural site (Chanban)  ∼  25 km (aerial distance) to the southwest of Bode on the other side of a tall ridge. The ambient mixing ratios of methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor, and carbon monoxide (CO) were measured with a cavity ring-down spectrometer (G2401; Picarro, USA) along with meteorological parameters for 1 year (March 2013–March 2014). These measurements are the first of their kind in the central Himalayan foothills. At Bode, the annual average mixing ratios of CO2 and CH4 were 419.3 (±6.0) ppm and 2.192 (±0.066) ppm, respectively. These values are higher than the levels observed at background sites such as Mauna Loa, USA (CO2: 396.8 ± 2.0 ppm, CH4: 1.831 ± 0.110 ppm) and Waliguan, China (CO2: 397.7 ± 3.6 ppm, CH4: 1.879 ± 0.009 ppm) during the same period and at other urban and semi-urban sites in the region, such as Ahmedabad and Shadnagar (India). They varied slightly across the seasons at Bode, with seasonal average CH4 mixing ratios of 2.157 (±0.230) ppm in the pre-monsoon season, 2.199 (±0.241) ppm in the monsoon, 2.210 (±0.200) ppm in the post-monsoon, and 2.214 (±0.209) ppm in the winter season. The average CO2 mixing ratios were 426.2 (±25.5) ppm in the pre-monsoon, 413.5 (±24.2) ppm in the monsoon, 417.3 (±23.1) ppm in the post-monsoon, and 421.9 (±20.3) ppm in the winter season. The maximum seasonal mean mixing ratio of CH4 in winter was only 0.057 ppm or 2.6 % higher than the seasonal minimum during the pre-monsoon period, while CO2 was 12.8 ppm or 3.1 % higher during the pre-monsoon period (seasonal maximum) than during the monsoon (seasonal minimum). On the other hand, the CO mixing ratio at Bode was 191 % higher during the winter than during the monsoon season. The enhancement in CO2 mixing ratios during the pre-monsoon season is associated with additional CO2 emissions from forest fires and agro-residue burning in northern South Asia in addition to local emissions in the Kathmandu Valley. Published CO∕CO2 ratios of different emission sources in Nepal and India were compared with the observed CO∕CO2 ratios in this study. This comparison suggested that the major sources in the Kathmandu Valley were residential cooking and vehicle exhaust in all seasons except winter. In winter, brick kiln emissions were a major source. Simultaneous measurements in Bode and Chanban (15 July–3 October 2015) revealed that the mixing ratios of CO2, CH4, and CO were 3.8, 12, and 64 % higher in Bode than Chanban. The Kathmandu Valley thus has significant emissions from local sources, which can also be attributed to its bowl-shaped geography that is conducive to pollution build-up. At Bode, all three gas species (CO2, CH4, and CO) showed strong diurnal patterns in their mixing ratios with a pronounced morning peak (ca. 08:00), a dip in the afternoon, and a gradual increase again through the night until the next morning. CH4 and CO at Chanban, however, did not show any noticeable diurnal variations.

These measurements provide the first insights into the diurnal and seasonal variation in key greenhouse gases and air pollutants and their local and regional sources, which is important information for atmospheric research in the region.

Year: 2017
Language: English
In: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 17 (20): 12573-12596 p.

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