Articles | Volume 14, issue 23
Research article
15 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 15 Dec 2014

Meteorological factors controlling low-level continental pollutant outflow across a coast

D. L. Peake, H. F. Dacre, J. Methven, and O. Coceal

Abstract. Coastal outflow describes the horizontal advection of pollutants from the continental boundary layer (BL) across a coastline. The outflow can ventilate polluted continental BLs and thus regulate air quality in highly populated coastal regions. This paper investigates the factors controlling coastal outflow and quantifies their importance as a ventilation mechanism. Tracers in the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) are used to examine the magnitude and variability of coastal outflow over the eastern United States during summer 2004. Over the 4 week period examined, ventilation of tracer from the continental BL via coastal outflow occurs with the same magnitude as vertical ventilation via convection and advection. The relative importance of tracer decay rate, cross-coastal advection rate, and a parameter based on the relative continental and marine BL heights on coastal outflow is assessed by reducing the problem to a time-dependent box model. The ratio of the advection rate and decay rate is a dimensionless parameter which determines whether tracers are long-lived or short-lived. Long- and short-lived tracers exhibit different behaviours with respect to coastal outflow. Short-lived tracers exhibit large diurnal variability in coastal outflow but long-lived tracers do not. For short-lived tracers, increasing the advection rate increases the diurnally averaged magnitude of coastal outflow, but this has the opposite effect for very long-lived tracers. By using the box-model solutions to interpret the MetUM simulations, a land width is determined which represents the distance inland over which emissions contribute significantly to coastal outflow. A land width of between 100 and 400 km is found to be representative for a tracer with a lifetime of 24 h.

Final-revised paper