Articles | Volume 10, issue 21
04 Nov 2010
 | 04 Nov 2010

Evidence of the impact of deep convection on reactive Volatile Organic Compounds in the upper tropical troposphere during the AMMA experiment in West Africa

J. Bechara, A. Borbon, C. Jambert, A. Colomb, and P. E. Perros

Abstract. A large dataset of reactive trace gases was collected for the first time over West Africa during the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) field experiment in August 2006. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC from C5–C9) were measured onboard the two French aircrafts the ATR-42 and the Falcon-20 by a new instrument AMOVOC (Airborne Measurement Of Volatile Organic Compounds). The goal of this study is (i) to characterize VOC distribution in the tropical region of West Africa (ii) to determine the impact of deep convection on VOC distribution and chemistry in the tropical upper troposphere (UT) and (iii) to characterize its spatial and temporal extensions. Experimental strategy consisted in sampling at altitudes between 0 and 12 km downwind of Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCS) and at cloud base. Biogenic and anthropogenic VOC distribution in West Africa is clearly affected by North to South emission gradient. Isoprene, the most abundant VOC, is at maximum level over the forest (1.26 ppb) while benzene reaches its maximum over the urban areas (0.11 ppb). First, a multiple physical and chemical tracers approach using CO, O3 and relative humidity was implemented to distinguish between convective and non-convective air masses. Then, additional tools based on VOC observations (tracer ratios, proxy of emissions and photochemical clocks) were adapted to characterize deep convection on a chemical, spatial and temporal basis. VOC vertical profiles show a "C-shaped" trend indicating that VOC-rich air masses are transported from the surface to the UT by deep convective systems. VOC mixing ratios in convective outflow are up to two times higher than background levels even for reactive and short-lived VOC (e.g. isoprene up to 0.19 ppb at 12 km-altitude) and are dependent on surface emission type. As a consequence, UT air mass reactivity increases from 0.52 s−1 in non-convective conditions to 0.95 s−1 in convective conditions. Fractions of boundary layer air contained in convective outflow are estimated to be 40 ± 15%. Vertical transport timescale is calculated to be 25 ± 10 min between 0 to 12 km altitude. These results characterize deep convection occurring over West Africa and provide relevant information for tropical convection parameterization in regional/global models.

Final-revised paper