Emissions vs. turbulence and atmospheric stability: A study of their relative importance in determining air pollutant concentrations

Yuval, Torsten Tritscher, Raanan Raz, Yoav Levi, Ilan Levy, David M. Broday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Air pollution in the urban environment is a major concern. The ambient concentrations depend on the levels of transboundary imported pollution, the intensity of local sources and the prevailing atmospheric conditions. This work studies the relative impact of two atmospheric variables–atmospheric stability and regional scale turbulence–in determining the air pollution concentrations. We considered a setting (downtown Haifa, Israel) impacted by a large variety of sources, emitting pollutants with different chemical attributes and atmospheric life times. We found that traffic accounts for most of the locally produced pollution in the study location. However, the meteorological factors can overwhelm its impact and dictate the concentrations. The switch from stable to convective conditions and the more vigorous daytime wind are associated with a premature end of the morning peak concentrations that result from rush hour emissions of NOx, Black Carbon (BC) and ultra–fine particles. It results in daytime concentration which are lower than (winter) or equal to (summer) those at night, in spite of the much lower night–time traffic volumes. Similar, albeit weaker, impact was detected in the benzene and toluene concentrations. Sources outside the study area are responsible for most of the CO, PM1 and PM2.5 concentrations but during winter nights, characterised by strong atmospheric stability and low turbulence, their concentrations are elevated due to the local emissions. We developed a diagnostic statistical nonlinear model for the pollutant concentrations, which points to a stronger association of the atmospheric stability with the concentrations during stable conditions but turbulence dominating during convective conditions. Our findings explain the relatively low overall concentrations of locally emitted pollutants in the study area but warn of the potential for high concentrations during night–time in locations with comparable meteorological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139300
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Air pollution
  • Atmospheric stability
  • Regional scale turbulence
  • Temperature lapse rate

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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