Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 184, Issue 5, pp 3199–3211 | Cite as

Role of meteorology in seasonality of air pollution in megacity Delhi, India

  • Sarath K. GuttikundaEmail author
  • Bhola R. Gurjar


The winters in megacity Delhi are harsh, smoggy, foggy, and highly polluted. The pollution levels are approximately two to three times those monitored in the summer months, and the severity is felt not only in the health department but also in the transportation department, with regular delays at airport operations and series of minor and major accidents across the road corridors. The impacts felt across the city are both manmade (due to the fuel burning) and natural (due to the meteorological setting), and it is hard to distinguish their respective proportions. Over the last decade, the city has gained from timely interventions to control pollution, and yet, the pollution levels are as bad as the previous year, especially for the fine particulates, the most harmful of the criteria pollutants, with a daily 2009 average of 80 to 100 μg/m3. In this paper, the role of meteorology is studied using a Lagrangian model called Atmospheric Transport Modeling System in tracer mode to better understand the seasonality of pollution in Delhi. A clear conclusion is that irrespective of constant emissions over each month, the estimated tracer concentrations are invariably 40% to 80% higher in the winter months (November, December, and January) and 10% to 60% lower in the summer months (May, June, and July), when compared to annual average for that year. Along with monitoring and source apportionment studies, this paper presents a way to communicate complex physical characteristics of atmospheric modeling in simplistic manner and to further elaborate linkages between local meteorology and pollution.


Air quality in Delhi Particulates pollution Winter highs Mixing layer height Role of meteorology 



This paper has not been subjected for internal peer and policy review of the Indian agencies and therefore does not necessarily reflect their views. The analysis and views expressed in this report are entirely those of the authors. No official endorsement should be inferred. Second author acknowledges support received from the Max Planck Society, Munich, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany, through the Max Planck Partner Group for Megacities and Global Change established at Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India.


  1. Ali, K., Momin, G. A., Tiwari, S., Safai, P. D., Chate, D. M., & Rao, P. S. P. (2004). Fog and precipitation chemistry at Delhi, North India. Atmospheric Environment, 38, 4215–4222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aneja, V. P., Agarwal, A., Roelle, P. A., Phillips, S. B., Tong, Q., Watkins, N., et al. (2001). Measurements and analysis of criteria pollutants in New Delhi, India. Environment International, 27, 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arndt, R. L., Carmichael, G. R., & Roorda, J. M. (1998). Seasonal source–receptor relationships in Asia. Atmospheric Environment, 32, 1397–1406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Badami, M. G. (2005). Transport and urban air pollution in India. Environmental Management, 36, 195–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Calori, G., & Carmichael, G. R. (1999). An urban trajectory model for sulfur in Asian megacities: model concepts and preliminary application. Atmospheric Environment, 33, 3109–3117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carmichael, G. R., Sakurai, T., Streets, D., Hozumi, Y., Ueda, H., Park, S. U., et al. (2008). MICS-Asia II: the model intercomparison study for Asia Phase II methodology and overview of findings. Atmospheric Environment, 42, 3468–3490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chowdhury, Z., Zheng, M., Schauer, J. J., Sheesley, R. J., Salmon, L. G., Cass, G. R., et al. (2007). Speciation of ambient fine organic carbon particles and source apportionment of PM2.5 in Indian cities. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D15303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cogliani, E. (2001). Air pollution forecast in cities by an air pollution index highly correlated with meteorological variables. Atmospheric Environment, 35, 2871–2877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. CPCB. (2010). Central Pollution Control Board. New Delhi: Government of India.Google Scholar
  10. DTC. (2010). Largest CNG-based fleet in the world. New Delhi: Delhi Transport Corporation.Google Scholar
  11. DTE. (2002). The Supreme Court not to budge on CNG issue. New Delhi: Down to Earth Magazine.Google Scholar
  12. Dubey, M. (2009). Delhi is India’s Asthma capital. New Delhi: Mail Today. March 1, 2009.Google Scholar
  13. Garg, A., Shukla, P. R., & Kapshe, M. (2006). The sectoral trends of multigas emissions inventory of India. Atmospheric Environment, 40, 4608–4620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gómez-Perales, J. E., Colvile, R. N., Fernández-Bremauntz, A. A., Gutiérrez-Avedoy, V., Páramo-Figueroa, V. H., Blanco-Jiménez, S., et al. (2007). Bus, minibus, metro inter-comparison of commuters’ exposure to air pollution in Mexico City. Atmospheric Environment, 41, 890–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gurjar, B. R., & Lelieveld, J. (2005). New directions: megacities and global change. Atmospheric Environment, 39, 391–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gurjar, B. R., van Aardenne, J. A., Lelieveld, J., & Mohan, M. (2004). Emission estimates and trends (1990–2000) for megacity Delhi and implications. Atmospheric Environment, 38, 5663–5681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gurjar, B. R., Butler, T. M., Lawrence, M. G., & Lelieveld, J. (2008). Evaluation of emissions and air quality in megacities. Atmospheric Environment, 42, 1593–1606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guttikunda, S.K. (2009). Air quality management in Delhi, India: Then, now, and next. In: UrbanEmissions.Info (Ed.), SIM-air Working Paper Series, 22–2009, New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
  19. Guttikunda, S. K., Thongboonchoo, N., Arndt, R. L., Calori, G., Carmichael, G. R., & Streets, D. G. (2001). Sulfur deposition in Asia: seasonal behavior and contributions from various energy sectors. Water Air and Soil Pollution, 131, 383–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Guttikunda, S. K., Carmichael, G. R., Calori, G., Eck, C., & Woo, J.-H. (2003). The contribution of megacities to regional sulfur pollution in Asia. Atmospheric Environment, 37, 11–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heffter, J.L. (1983). Branching atmospheric trajectory (BAT) model, NOAA Tech. Memo. ERL ARL-121, Air Resources Laboratory, Rockville, MD USA.Google Scholar
  22. Hidy, G. M., & Pennell, W. T. (2010). Multipollutant air quality management. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association, 60, 645–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holloway, T., Levy Ii, H., & Carmichael, G. (2002). Transfer of reactive nitrogen in Asia: development and evaluation of a source-receptor model. Atmospheric Environment, 36, 4251–4264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jiang, F., Wang, T., Wang, T., Xie, M., & Zhao, H. (2008). Numerical modeling of a continuous photochemical pollution episode in Hong Kong using WRF-chem. Atmospheric Environment, 42, 8717–8727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, T. M., Guttikunda, S. K., Wells, G., Bond, T., Russell, A., West, J., et al. (2011). Handbook on particulate pollution source apportionment techniques. ESMAP publication series. Washington DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  26. Kalnay, E., Kanamitsu, M., Kistler, R., Collins, W., Deaven, D., Gandin, L., et al. (1996). The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 77, 437–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kandlikar, M. (2007). Air pollution at a hotspot location in Delhi: detecting trends, seasonal cycles and oscillations. Atmospheric Environment, 41, 5934–5947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kandlikar, M., & Ramachandran, G. (2000). The causes and consequences of particulate air pollution in urban India: a synthesis of the science. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 25, 629–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mohan, M., & Kandya, A. (2007). An analysis of the annual and seasonal trends of air quality index of Delhi. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 131, 267–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Narain, U., & Bell, R. (2005). Who changed Delhi’s air? The roles of the court and the executive in environmental policymaking, discussion paper series—RFF DP 05–48. Washington DC: Resources for the Future.Google Scholar
  31. NASA. (2008). Fires in the Northwest India, "natural hazards". USA: NASA Earth Observatory.Google Scholar
  32. Qian, W., Tang, X., & Quan, L. (2004). Regional characteristics of dust storms in China. Atmospheric Environment, 38, 4895–4907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reddy, M. S., & Venkataraman, C. (2002). Inventory of aerosol and sulphur dioxide emissions from India: I—Fossil fuel combustion. Atmospheric Environment, 36, 677–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reynolds, C. C. O., & Kandlikar, M. (2008). Climate impacts of air quality policy: switching to a natural gas-fueled public transportation system in New Delhi. Environmental Science & Technology, 42, 5860–5865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. SEPB (2010). The Air Pollution Forecasting System for Shanghai Expo 2010. Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, Supported by US EPA’s AirNOW International Program, Shanghai, ChinaGoogle Scholar
  36. Shah, J., Nagpal, T., Johnson, T., Amann, M., Carmichael, G., Foell, W., et al. (2000). Integrated analysis for acid rain in Asia: policy implications and results of RAINS-ASIA model. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 25, 339–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sharma, S. K., Datta, A., Saud, T., Saxena, M., Mandal, T. K., Ahammed, Y. N., et al. (2010). Seasonal variability of ambient NH3, NO, NO2 and SO2 over Delhi. Journal of Environmental Sciences, 22, 1023–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. SoE-Delhi. (2010). State of the environment report for the National Capital Region of Delhi. New Delhi: Government of Delhi.Google Scholar
  39. Streets, D. G., Guttikunda, S. K., & Carmichael, G. R. (2000). The growing contribution of sulfur emissions from ships in Asian waters, 1988–1995. Atmospheric Environment, 34, 4425–4439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Streets, D. G., Fu, J. S., Jang, C. J., Hao, J., He, K., Tang, X., et al. (2007). Air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Atmospheric Environment, 41, 480–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tandon, A., Yadav, S., & Attri, A. K. (2010). Coupling between meteorological factors and ambient aerosol load. Atmospheric Environment, 44, 1237–1243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. UNEP. (2009). Environmental assessment of 2010 Beijing Olympics Games. Bangkok: UNEP.Google Scholar
  43. UN-HABITAT. (2008). State of the world’s cities 2008/2009—harmonious Cities. Nairobi: UN-HABITAT.Google Scholar
  44. Zhao, L., Wang, X., He, Q., Wang, H., Sheng, G., Chan, L. Y., et al. (2004). Exposure to hazardous volatile organic compounds, PM10 and CO while walking along streets in urban Guangzhou, China. Atmospheric Environment, 38, 6177–6184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Atmospheric SciencesDesert Research InstituteRenoUSA
  2. 2.Associate Professor, Department of Civil EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology, RoorkeeRoorkeeIndia

Personalised recommendations