Determinants of spatial variability of air pollutant concentrations in a street canyon network measured using a mobile laboratory and a drone

Leena Järvi, Mona Kurppa, Heino Kuuluvainen, Topi Rönkkö, Sasu Karttunen, Anna Balling, Hilkka Timonen, Jarkko V. Niemi, Liisa Pirjola

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19 Citations (Scopus)
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Urban air pollutant concentrations are highly variable both in space and time. In order to understand these variabilities high-resolution measurements of air pollutants are needed. Here we present results of a mobile laboratory and a drone measurements made within a street-canyon network in Helsinki, Finland, in summer and winter 2017. The mobile laboratory measured the total number concentration (N) and lung-deposited surface area (LDSA) of aerosol particles, and the concentrations of black carbon, nitric oxide (NOx) and ozone (O3). The drone measured the vertical profile of LDSA. The main aims were to examine the spatial variability of air pollutants in a wide street canyon and its immediate surroundings, and find the controlling environmental variables for the observed variability's. The highest concentrations with the most temporal variability were measured at the main street canyon when the mobile laboratory was moving with the traffic fleet for all air pollutants except O3. The street canyon concentration levels were more affected by traffic rates whereas on surrounding areas, meteorological conditions dominated. Both the mean flow and turbulence were important, the latter particularly for smaller aerosol particles through LDSA and N. The formation of concentration hotspots in the street network were mostly controlled by mechanical processes but in winter thermal processes became also important for aerosol particles. LDSA showed large variability in the profile shape, and surface and background concentrations. The expected exponential decay functions worked better in well-mixed conditions in summer compared to winter. We derived equation for the vertical decay which was mostly controlled by the air temperature. Mean wind dominated the profile shape over both thermal and mechanical turbulence. This study is among the first experimental studies to demonstrate the importance of high-resolution measurements in understanding urban pollutant variability in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Article number158974
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date27 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Air quality
  • Drone
  • Meteorology
  • Mobile laboratory
  • Turbulence

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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