Articles | Volume 13, issue 14
Research article
29 Jul 2013
Research article |  | 29 Jul 2013

Simulations of the transport and deposition of 137Cs over Europe after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident: influence of varying emission-altitude and model horizontal and vertical resolution

N. Evangeliou, Y. Balkanski, A. Cozic, and A. P. Møller

Abstract. The coupled model LMDZORINCA has been used to simulate the transport, wet and dry deposition of the radioactive tracer 137Cs after accidental releases. For that reason, two horizontal resolutions were deployed and used in the model, a regular grid of 2.5° × 1.27°, and the same grid stretched over Europe to reach a resolution of 0.66° × 0.51°. The vertical dimension is represented with two different resolutions, 19 and 39 levels respectively, extending up to the mesopause. Four different simulations are presented in this work; the first uses the regular grid over 19 vertical levels assuming that the emissions took place at the surface (RG19L(S)), the second also uses the regular grid over 19 vertical levels but realistic source injection heights (RG19L); in the third resolution the grid is regular and the vertical resolution 39 levels (RG39L) and finally, it is extended to the stretched grid with 19 vertical levels (Z19L). The model is validated with the Chernobyl accident which occurred in Ukraine (ex-USSR) on 26 May 1986 using the emission inventory from Brandt et al. (2002). This accident has been widely studied since 1986, and a large database has been created containing measurements of atmospheric activity concentration and total cumulative deposition for 137Cs from most of the European countries.

According to the results, the performance of the model to predict the transport and deposition of the radioactive tracer was efficient and accurate presenting low biases in activity concentrations and deposition inventories, despite the large uncertainties on the intensity of the source released. The best agreement with observations was obtained using the highest horizontal resolution of the model (Z19L run). The model managed to predict the radioactive contamination in most of the European regions (similar to De Cort et al., 1998), and also the arrival times of the radioactive fallout. As regards to the vertical resolution, the largest biases were obtained for the 39 layers run due to the increase of the levels in conjunction with the uncertainty of the source term. Moreover, the ecological half-life of 137Cs in the atmosphere after the accident ranged between 6 and 9 days, which is in good accordance to what previously reported and in the same range with the recent accident in Japan. The high response of LMDZORINCA model for 137Cs reinforces the importance of atmospheric modelling in emergency cases to gather information for protecting the population from the adverse effects of radiation.

Final-revised paper