Articles | Volume 11, issue 8
Research article
19 Apr 2011
Research article |  | 19 Apr 2011

Episodes of cross-polar transport in the Arctic troposphere during July 2008 as seen from models, satellite, and aircraft observations

H. Sodemann, M. Pommier, S. R. Arnold, S. A. Monks, K. Stebel, J. F. Burkhart, J. W. Hair, G. S. Diskin, C. Clerbaux, P.-F. Coheur, D. Hurtmans, H. Schlager, A.-M. Blechschmidt, J. E. Kristjánsson, and A. Stohl

Abstract. During the POLARCAT summer campaign in 2008, two episodes (2–5 July and 7–10 July 2008) occurred where low-pressure systems traveled from Siberia across the Arctic Ocean towards the North Pole. The two cyclones had extensive smoke plumes from Siberian forest fires and anthropogenic sources in East Asia embedded in their associated air masses, creating an excellent opportunity to use satellite and aircraft observations to validate the performance of atmospheric transport models in the Arctic, which is a challenging model domain due to numerical and other complications.

Here we compare transport simulations of carbon monoxide (CO) from the Lagrangian transport model FLEXPART and the Eulerian chemical transport model TOMCAT with retrievals of total column CO from the IASI passive infrared sensor onboard the MetOp-A satellite. The main aspect of the comparison is how realistic horizontal and vertical structures are represented in the model simulations. Analysis of CALIPSO lidar curtains and in situ aircraft measurements provide further independent reference points to assess how reliable the model simulations are and what the main limitations are.

The horizontal structure of mid-latitude pollution plumes agrees well between the IASI total column CO and the model simulations. However, finer-scale structures are too quickly diffused in the Eulerian model. Applying the IASI averaging kernels to the model data is essential for a meaningful comparison. Using aircraft data as a reference suggests that the satellite data are biased high, while TOMCAT is biased low. FLEXPART fits the aircraft data rather well, but due to added background concentrations the simulation is not independent from observations. The multi-data, multi-model approach allows separating the influences of meteorological fields, model realisation, and grid type on the plume structure. In addition to the very good agreement between simulated and observed total column CO fields, the results also highlight the difficulty to identify a data set that most realistically represents the actual pollution state of the Arctic atmosphere.

Final-revised paper