Atmospheric oxidation capacity in the summer of Houston 2006: Comparison with summer measurements in other metropolitan studies

Jingqiu Mao, Xinrong Ren, Shuang Chen, William H. Brune, Zhong Chen, Monica Martinez, Hartwig Harder, Barry Lefer, Bernhard Rappenglück, James Flynn, Michael Leuchner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Both similarities and differences in summertime atmospheric photochemical oxidation appear in the comparison of four field studies: TEXAQS2000 (Houston, 2000), NYC2001 (New York City, 2001), MCMA2003 (Mexico City, 2003), and TRAMP2006 (Houston, 2006). The compared photochemical indicators are OH and HO2 abundances, OH reactivity (the inverse of the OH lifetime), HOx budget, OH chain length (ratio of OH cycling to OH loss), calculated ozone production, and ozone sensitivity. In terms of photochemical activity, Houston is much more like Mexico City than New York City. These relationships result from the ratio of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are comparable in Houston and Mexico City, but much lower in New York City. Compared to New York City, Houston and Mexico City also have higher levels of OH and HO2, longer OH chain lengths, a smaller contribution of reactions with NOx to the OH reactivity, and NOx-sensitivity for ozone production during the day. In all four studies, the photolysis of nitrous acid (HONO) and formaldehyde (HCHO) are significant, if not dominant, HOx sources. A problematic result in all four studies is the greater OH production than OH loss during morning rush hour, even though OH production and loss are expected to always be in balance because of the short OH lifetime. The cause of this discrepancy is not understood, but may be related to the under-predicted HO2 in high NOx conditions, which could have implications for ozone production. Three photochemical indicators show particularly high photochemical activity in Houston during the TRAMP2006 study: the long portion of the day for which ozone production was NOx-sensitive, the calculated ozone production rate that was second only to Mexico City's, and the OH chain length that was twice that of any other location. These results on photochemical activity provide additional support for regulatory actions to reduce reactive VOCs in Houston in order to reduce ozone and other pollutants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4107-4115
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number33
StatePublished - Oct 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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