Air quality in densely populated urban coastal areas is directly related to the coupling of the synoptic and the local scale flows. The dispersion conditions within Athens basin, under the influence of different meteorological forcings, lead to distinct spatio-temporal air pollution patterns. The aim of the current observational research is to identify and examine the effect of sea breeze under different atmospheric circulation patterns on air pollution levels for a one-year study period (2007). The study employs surface pressure maps, routine meteorological observations at two coastal sites and nitrogen monoxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)) and ozone (O(3)) concentrations from a network of four air quality stations within the Athens basin. A three-step methodology is applied that incorporates a set of criteria for classifying atmospheric circulation and identifying sea breeze events under each circulation pattern. Two types of sea breeze development are identified (pure sea breeze-PSB and modified sea breeze-MSB) with distinct characteristics. Sea breeze is found to develop more frequently under offshore compared to onshore and parallel to the shoreline background flows. Poor dispersion conditions (high nitrogen oxides-NO(x) and O(3) concentrations) are connected to the pure sea breeze cases and to those cases where sea breeze interacts with a moderate northerly flow during the warm period. The levels of NO(x) and O(3) for the northern Athens basin area are found to be significantly higher during the sea breeze days compared to the Etesian days. Regarding the diurnal variation of ozone for the sea breeze days, peak concentrations and higher intra-daily ranges are observed. Day-to-day pollution accumulation (build-up effect) is measured for O(3) at the northern stations in the Athens basin.
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