CO2 flux estimation errors associated with moist atmospheric processes
Abstract. Vertical transport by moist sub-grid scale processes such as deep convection is a well-known source of uncertainty in CO2 source/sink inversion. However, a dynamical link between vertical transport, satellite based retrievals of column mole fractions of CO2, and source/sink inversion has not yet been established. By using the same offline transport model with meteorological fields from slightly different data assimilation systems, we examine sensitivity of frontal CO2 transport and retrieved fluxes to different parameterizations of sub-grid vertical transport. We find that frontal transport feeds off background vertical CO2 gradients, which are modulated by sub-grid vertical transport. The implication for source/sink estimation is two-fold. First, CO2 variations contained in moist poleward moving air masses are systematically different from variations in dry equatorward moving air. Moist poleward transport is hidden from orbital sensors on satellites, causing a sampling bias, which leads directly to small but systematic flux retrieval errors in northern mid-latitudes. Second, differences in the representation of moist sub-grid vertical transport in GEOS-4 and GEOS-5 meteorological fields cause differences in vertical gradients of CO2, which leads to systematic differences in moist poleward and dry equatorward CO2 transport and therefore the fraction of CO2 variations hidden in moist air from satellites. As a result, sampling biases are amplified and regional scale flux errors enhanced, most notably in Europe (0.43 ± 0.35 PgC yr−1). These results, cast from the perspective of moist frontal transport processes, support previous arguments that the vertical gradient of CO2 is a major source of uncertainty in source/sink inversion.