CO2 variability in the Mexico City region from in situ measurements at an urban and a background site

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Eugenia González del Castillo
Noémie Taquet
Alejandro Bezanilla
Wolfgang Stremme
Michel Ramonet
Olivier Laurent
Yang Xu
Marc Delmotte
Michel Grutter


Urban areas are important contributors to the increase of global CO2 levels due to human activities, but continuous records of CO2 concentration in cities are scarce, especially in the developing world. In this study we present five years of simultaneous, in-situ measurements at a university campus in the south of Mexico City (UNAM) and at a high-altitude station, the Altzomoni atmospheric observatory (ALTZ), 60 km apart from the first site. The characteristics of the daily cycles, seasonality, and long-term trends were extracted from both time series. The features of the daily and seasonal cycles at UNAM are dominated by the dynamics of the boundary layer growth, while the seasonality at Altzomoni is determined by both the local meteorology and the photosynthetic activity of the vegetation. Annual CO2 growth rates of 2.4 and 2.6 ppm yr–1 were estimated for UNAM and Altzomoni, respectively, in close agreement with reported global growth rates and with previous estimates of total column CO2 trends. The simultaneous monitoring at the urban and the mountain sites revealed a regular exchange of air masses between the city and its vicinities. The annual cycle at UNAM shows a secondary CO2 maximum at the end of the dry season, the source of which is yet to be determined, but likely due to incoming air parcels enriched with emissions from agricultural burnings. Likewise, the daily CO2 cycle at ALTZ during the dry season shows evidence of a daily afternoon arrival of polluted air masses from the neighboring urban areas. This study lays the foundation of an upcoming expansion in the CO2 measurement sites and capabilities in the metropolitan area of Mexico City.


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