The paper provides an overview of an airborne measurement campaign with a microlight aircraft over the Pokhara Valley region, Nepal, a metropolitan region in the central Himalayan foothills. This is the first aerial measurement in the central Himalayan foothill region, one of the polluted but relatively poorly sampled regions of the world. Conducted in two phases (in May 2016 and December 2016–January 2017), the goal of the overall campaign was to quantify the vertical distribution of aerosols over a polluted mountain valley in the Himalayan foothills, as well as to investigate the extent of regional transport of emissions into the Himalayas. This paper summarizes results from the first phase where test flights were conducted in May 2016 (pre-monsoon), with the objective of demonstrating the potential of airborne measurements in the region using a portable instrument package (size with housing case: 0.45 m × 0.25 m × 0.25 m, 15 kg) onboard an ultralight aircraft (IKARUS-C42). A total of five sampling test flights were conducted (each lasting for 1–1.5 h) in the Pokhara Valley to characterize vertical profiles of aerosol properties s ... mehruch as aerosol number and size distribution (0.3–2 µm), total particle concentration (>14 nm), aerosol absorption (370–950 nm), black carbon (BC), and meteorological variables. Although some interesting observations were made during the test flight, the study is limited to a few days (and only a few hours of flight in total) and thus the analysis presented may not represent the entire pollution–meteorology interaction found in the Pokhara Valley.
The vertical profiles of aerosol species showed decreasing concentrations with altitude (815 to 4500 m a.s.l.); a steep concentration gradient below 2000 m a.s.l. in the morning; and mixed profiles (up to ca. 4000 m a.s.l.) in the afternoon. The near-surface (<1000 m a.s.l.) BC concentrations observed in the Pokhara Valley were much lower than pre-monsoon BC concentrations in the Kathmandu Valley, and similar in range to Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) sites such as Kanpur in India. The sampling test flight also detected an elevated polluted aerosol layer (around 3000 m a.s.l.) over the Pokhara Valley, which could be associated with the regional transport. The total aerosol and black carbon concentration in the polluted layer was comparable with the near-surface values. The elevated polluted layer was also characterized by a high aerosol extinction coefficient (at 550 nm) and was identified as smoke and a polluted dust layer. The observed shift in the westerlies (at 20–30∘ N) entering Nepal during the test flight period could be an important factor for the presence of elevated polluted layers in the Pokhara Valley