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A backward modeling study of intercontinental pollution transport using aircraft measurements

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Wilhelm,  Stefan
Frank Arnold - Atmospheric Trace Gases and Ions, Research Groups, MPI for Nuclear Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Arnold,  Frank
Frank Arnold - Atmospheric Trace Gases and Ions, Research Groups, MPI for Nuclear Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Stohl, A., Forster, C., Eckhardt, S., Spichtinger, N., Huntrieser, H., Heland, J., et al. (2003). A backward modeling study of intercontinental pollution transport using aircraft measurements. Journal of Geophysical Research, 108(D12): 4370. doi:10.1029/2002JD002862.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0011-8E90-6
Abstract
In this paper we present simulations with a Lagrangian particle dispersion model to study the intercontinental transport of pollution from North America during an aircraft measurement campaign over Europe. The model was used for both the flight planning and a detailed source analysis after the campaign, which is described here with examples from two episodes. Forward calculations of emission tracers from North America, Europe, and Asia were made in order to understand the transport processes. Both episodes were preceded by stagnant conditions over North America, leading to the accumulation of pollutants in the North American boundary layer. Both anthropogenic sources and, to a lesser extent, forest fire emissions contributed to this pollution, which was then exported by warm conveyor belts to the middle and upper troposphere, where it was transported rapidly to Europe. Concentrations of many trace gases (CO, NOy, CO2, acetone, and several volatile organic compounds; O3 in one case) and of ambient atmospheric ions measured aboard the research aircraft were clearly enhanced in the pollution plumes compared to the conditions outside the plumes. Backward simulations with the particle model were introduced as an indispensable tool for a more detailed analysis of the plume's source region. They make trajectory analyses (which, to date, were mainly used to interpret aircraft measurement data) obsolete. Using an emission inventory, we could decompose the tracer mixing ratios at the receptors (i.e., along the flight tracks) into contributions from every grid cell of the inventory. For both plumes we found that emission sources contributing to the tracer concentrations over Europe were distributed over large areas in North America. In one case, sources in California, Texas, and Florida contributed almost equally, and smaller contributions were also made by other sources located between the Yucatan Peninsula and Canada. In the other case, sources in eastern North America, including moderate contributions from forest fires, were most important. The plume's maximum was mainly caused by anthropogenic emissions from the New York area. To our knowledge, this is the first case reported where a pollution plume from a megacity was reliably detected over another continent.