Measurements of trace gases in the inflow of South China Sea background air and outflow of regional pollution at Tai O, Southern China

Tao Wang, Hai Guo, D. R. Blake, Y. H. Kwok, I. J. Simpson, Yok Sheung Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


We present a 16-month record of ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), total reactive nitrogen (NOy), sulphur dioxide (SO2), methane (CH4), C2- C8non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs), C1- C2halocarbons, and dimethyl sulfide (DMS) measured at a southern China coastal site. The study aimed to establish/update seasonal profiles of chemically active trace gases and pollution tracers in subtropical Asia and to characterize the composition of the 'background' atmosphere over the South China Sea (SCS) and of pollution outflow from the industrialized Pearl River Delta (PRD) region and southern China. Most of the measured trace gases of anthropogenic origin exhibited a winter maximum and a summer minimum, while O3showed a maximum in autumn which is in contrast to the seasonal behavior of O3in rural eastern China and in many mid-latitude remote locations in the western Pacific. The data were segregated into two groups representing the SCS background air and the outflow of regional continental pollution (PRD plus southern China), based on CO mixing ratios and meteorological conditions. NMHCs and halocarbon data were further analyzed to examine the relationships between their variability and atmospheric lifetime and to elucidate the extent of atmospheric processing in the sampled air parcels. The trace gas variability (S) versus lifetime (τ) relationship, defined by the power law, Slnx= Aτ-b, (where X is the trace gas mixing ratio) gives a fit parameter A of 1.39 and exponent b of 0.42 for SCS air, and A of 2.86 and b of 0.31 for the regional continental air masses. An examination of ln[n-butane]/ln[ethane] versus ln[propane]/ln[ethane] indicates that their relative abundance was dominated by mixing as opposed to photochemistry in both SCS and regional outflow air masses. The very low ratios of ethyne/CO, propane/ethane and toluene/benzene suggest that the SCS air mass has undergone intense atmospheric processing since these gases were released into the atmosphere. Compared to the results from other polluted rural sites and from urban areas, the large values of these species in the outflow of PRD/southern China suggest source(s) emitting higher levels of ethyne, benzene, and toluene, relative to light alkanes. These chemical characteristics could be unique indicators of anthropogenic emissions from southern China. 2005.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-317
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Atmospheric Chemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2005


  • Background air
  • Inflow
  • Outflow
  • Pearl River Delta
  • South China Sea
  • Trace gases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Measurements of trace gases in the inflow of South China Sea background air and outflow of regional pollution at Tai O, Southern China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this