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  • Author or Editor: Volkmar Wirth x
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Angela M. Rendón
,
Juan F. Salazar
,
Carlos A. Palacio
, and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

Urban valleys can experience serious air pollution problems as a combined result of their limited ventilation and the high emission of pollutants from the urban areas. Idealized simulations were analyzed to elucidate the breakup of an inversion layer in urban valleys subject to a strong low-level temperature inversion and topographic effects on surface heating such as topographic shading, as well as the associated air pollution transport mechanisms. The results indicate that the presence and evolution in time of the inversion layer and its interplay with an urban heat island within the valley strongly influence the venting of pollutants out of urban valleys. Three mechanisms of air pollution transport were identified. These are transport by upslope winds, transport by an urban heat island–induced circulation, and transport within a closed slope-flow circulation below an inversion layer.

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Angela M. Rendón
,
Juan F. Salazar
,
Carlos A. Palacio
,
Volkmar Wirth
, and
Björn Brötz

Abstract

Many cities located in valleys with limited ventilation experience serious air pollution problems. The ventilation of an urban valley can be limited not only by orographic barriers, but also by urban heat island–induced circulations and/or the capping effect of temperature inversions. Furthermore, land-use/-cover changes caused by urbanization alter the dynamics of temperature inversions and urban heat islands, thereby affecting air quality in an urban valley. By means of idealized numerical simulations, it is shown that in a mountain valley subject to temperature inversions urbanization can have an important influence on air quality through effects on the inversion breakup. Depending on the urban area fraction in the simulations, the breakup time changes, the cross-valley wind system can evolve from a confined to an open system during the daytime, the slope winds can be reversed by the interplay between the urban heat island and the temperature inversion, and the breakup pattern can migrate from one dominated by the growth of the convective boundary layer to one also involving the removal of mass from the valley floor by the upslope winds. The analysis suggests that the influence of urbanization on the air quality of an urban valley may lead to contrasting and possibly counterintuitive effects when considering temperature inversions. More urban land does not necessarily imply worse air quality, even when considering that the amount of pollutants emitted grows with increased urbanization.

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