Current status of model predictions of volatile organic compounds and impacts on surface ozone predictions during summer in China

Yongliang She, Jingyi Li, Xiaopu Lyu, Hai Guo, Momei Qin, Xiaodong Xie, Kangjia Gong, Fei Ye, Jianjiong Mao, Lin Huang, Jianlin Hu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) play a crucial role in the formation of tropospheric ozone (O3) and secondary organic aerosols. VOC emissions are generally considered to have larger uncertainties compared to other pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Although predictions of O3 and PM2.5 have been extensively evaluated in air quality modeling studies, there has been limited reporting on the evaluation of VOCs, mainly due to a lack of routine VOC measurements at multiple sites. In this study, we utilized VOC measurements from the "Towards an Air Toxic Management System in China"(ATMSYC) project at 28 sites across China and assessed the predicted VOC concentrations using the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model with the widely used Multi-resolution Emission Inventory for China (MEIC). The ratio of predicted to observed total VOCs was found to be 0.74 ± 0.40, with underpredictions ranging from 2.05 to 50.61 ppbv (5.77 % to 85.40 %) at 24 sites. A greater bias in VOC predictions was observed in industrial cities in the north and southwest, such as Jinan, Shijiazhuang, Lanzhou, Chengdu, and Guiyang. In terms of different VOC components, alkanes, alkenes, non-naphthalene aromatics (ARO2MN), alkynes, and formaldehyde (HCHO) had prediction-to-observation ratios of 0.53 ± 0.38, 0.51 ± 0.48, 0.31 ± 0.38, 0.41 ± 0.47, and 1.21 ± 1.61, respectively. Sensitivity experiments were conducted to assess the impact of the VOC prediction bias on O3 predictions. While emission adjustments improved the model performance for VOCs, resulting in a change in the ratio of total VOCs to 0.86 ± 0.47, they also exacerbated O3 overprediction relative to the base case by 0.62 % to 6.27 % across the sites. This study demonstrates that current modeling setups and emission inventories are likely to underpredict VOC concentrations, and this underprediction of VOCs contributes to lower O3 predictions in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-233
Number of pages15
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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