Numerical modelling of the stable atmospheric boundary layer over complex terrain and application to air quality

Abstract : During wintertime anticyclonic regimes, urbanized mountain areas often experience stable and decoupled atmospheric conditions, resulting in severe episodes of particulate air pollution. This study deals with the characterization of drivers of particulate air pollution in deep alpine valleys under such stable conditions from the point of view of atmospheric dynamics. The work has been carried out through the implementation of both idealized and real case numerical simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Particulate air pollution has been modelled by implementing passive tracers in the simulations.In a first part, high-resolution numerical simulations have been performed using two different configurations of three-dimensional idealized valleys opening onto a plain. The first configuration corresponds to a valley of constant width in the along-valley direction, directly opening onto a plain. The second one consists in a valley of varying width in that direction, with an upstream section of larger width than the downstream section, which opens onto the plain. The latter configuration is referred to as a pooling case. The change in the vertical temperature profile along the valley axis in all configurations results in a horizontal pressure gradient that leads to the development of an along-valley flow. Configurations in which the upstream section of the valley opens onto a narrower one have shown to be prone to higher pollutant concentrations than in the case of a valley opening directly onto a plain, due to the weaker down-valley flow developing in the variable width configurations. The impact of the downstream valley section on the concentration of pollutants in the upstream valley section is remarkable: the ventilation of the upstream valley section can be completely blocked for most of the simulation (six hours) when the ratio of the upstream to downstream valley section width is equal to 10.The second part deals with a real case situation, focusing on a section of the alpine Arve River valley around the city of Passy. The numerical modelling of the atmospheric dynamics and particulate matter (PM) concentration in that section has been performed during a strongly polluted wintertime episode of February 2015. For this purpose the emission inventory prepared by the air quality agency of the région Auvergne Rhône-Alpes has been implemented in the WRF-Chem model. The boundary layer dynamics has been compared to wind and temperature profiles collected during a field campaign conducted during the episode, and PM concentration has been compared to data recorded by air quality stations. The contribution of the valley tributaries to air pollution within the section considered has been first studied. Results show that this contribution is very small compared to that from local sources; this implies that $in-situ$ emissions are primarily responsible for the high PM concentration recorded in the valley since the valley bottom is decoupled from the atmosphere above the valley. The ventilation characteristics of the valley and their influence on the particulate matter (PM) concentration have next been investigated. The analysis indicates that due to the limited ventilation around the city of Passy, the hourly variability of PM concentration therein is driven by that of the emissions.
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Julian Quimbayo-Duarte. Numerical modelling of the stable atmospheric boundary layer over complex terrain and application to air quality. Climatology. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAU005⟩. ⟨tel-02164792⟩

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