Observations and Explicit Modeling of Summertime Carbonyl Formation in Beijing: Identification of Key Precursor Species and Their Impact on Atmospheric Oxidation Chemistry

Xue Yang, Likun Xue, Tao Wang, Xinfeng Wang, Jian Gao, Shuncheng Lee, Donald R. Blake, Fahe Chai, Wenxing Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Carbonyls are an important group of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that play critical roles in tropospheric chemistry. To better understand the formation mechanisms of carbonyl compounds, extensive measurements of carbonyls and related parameters were conducted in Beijing in summer 2008. Formaldehyde (11.17 ± 5.32 ppbv), acetone (6.98 ± 3.01 ppbv), and acetaldehyde (5.27 ± 2.24 ppbv) were the most abundant carbonyl species. Two dicarbonyls, glyoxal (0.68 ± 0.26 ppbv) and methylglyoxal (MGLY; 1.10 ± 0.44 ppbv), were also present in relatively high concentrations. An observation-based chemical box model was used to simulate the in situ production of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, glyoxal, and MGLY and quantify their contributions to ozone formation and ROxbudget. All four carbonyls showed similar formation mechanisms but exhibited different precursor distributions. Alkenes (mainly isoprene and ethene) were the dominant precursors of formaldehyde, while both alkenes (e.g., propene, i-butene, and cis-2-pentene) and alkanes (mainly i-pentane) were major precursors of acetaldehyde. For dicarbonyls, both isoprene and aromatic VOCs were the dominant parent hydrocarbons of glyoxal and MGLY. Photolysis of oxygenated VOCs was the dominant source of ROxradicals (approximately >80% for HO2and approximately >70% for RO2) in Beijing. Ozone production occurred under a mixed-control regime with carbonyls being the key VOC species. Overall, this study provides some new insights into the formation mechanisms of carbonyls, especially their parent hydrocarbon species, and underlines the important role of carbonyls in radical chemistry and ozone pollution in Beijing. Reducing the emissions of alkenes and aromatics would be an effective way to mitigate photochemical pollution in Beijing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1426-1440
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2018


  • atmospheric oxidation chemistry
  • carbonyls
  • master chemical mechanism
  • precursor species
  • secondary formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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