Measurement report: Characterization of the vertical distribution of airborne Pinus pollen in the atmosphere with lidar-derived profiles - A modeling case study in the region of Barcelona, NE Spain

Michaël Sicard*, Oriol Jorba, Jiang Ji Ho, Rebeca Izquierdo, Concepción De Linares, Marta Alarcón, Adolfo Comerón, Jordina Belmonte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper investigates the mechanisms involved in the dispersion, structure, and mixing in the vertical column of atmospheric pollen. The methodology used employs observations of pollen concentration obtained from Hirst samplers (we will refer to this as surface pollen) and vertical distribution (polarization-sensitive lidar), as well as nested numerical simulations with an atmospheric transport model and a simplified pollen module developed especially for this study. The study focuses on the predominant pollen type, Pinus, of the intense pollination event which occurred in the region of Barcelona, Catalonia, NE Spain, during 27-31 March 2015. First, conversion formulas are expressed to convert lidar-derived total backscatter coefficient and model-derived mass concentration into pollen grains concentration, the magnitude measured at the surface by means of aerobiological methods, and, for the first time ever, a relationship between optical and mass properties of atmospheric pollen through the estimation of the so-called specific extinction cross section is quantified in ambient conditions. Second, the model horizontal representativeness is assessed through a comparison between nested pollen simulations at 9, 3, and 1g€¯km horizontal resolution and observed meteorological and aerobiological variables at seven sites around Catalonia. Finally, hourly observations of surface and column concentration in Barcelona are analyzed with the different numerical simulations at increasing horizontal resolution and varying sedimentation/deposition parameters. We find that the 9 or 3g€¯km simulations are less sensitive to the meteorology errors; hence, they should be preferred for specific forecasting applications. The largest discrepancies between measured surface (Hirst) and column (lidar) concentrations occur during nighttime, where only residual pollen is detected in the column, whereas it is also present at the surface. The main reason is related to the lidar characteristics which have the lowest useful range bin at g1/4g€¯225g€¯m, above the usually very thin nocturnal stable boundary layer. At the hour of the day of maximum insolation, the pollen layer does not extend up to the top of the planetary boundary layer, according to the observations (lidar), probably because of gravity effects; however, the model simulates the pollen plume up to the top of the planetary boundary layer, resulting in an overestimation of the pollen load. Besides the large size and weight of Pinus grains, sedimentation/deposition processes have only a limited impact on the model vertical concentration in contrast to the emission processes. For further modeling research, emphasis is put on the accurate knowledge of plant/tree spatial distribution, density, and type, as well as on the establishment of reliable phenology functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17807-17832
Number of pages26
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Volume21
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2021

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