Simulating the integrated summertime Δ14CO2 signature from anthropogenic emissions over Western Europe
Abstract. Radiocarbon dioxide (14CO2, reported in Δ14CO2) can be used to determine the fossil fuel CO2 addition to the atmosphere, since fossil fuel CO2 no longer contains any 14C. After the release of CO2 at the source, atmospheric transport causes dilution of strong local signals into the background and detectable gradients of Δ14CO2 only remain in areas with high fossil fuel emissions. This fossil fuel signal can moreover be partially masked by the enriching effect that anthropogenic emissions of 14CO2 from the nuclear industry have on the atmospheric Δ14CO2 signature. In this paper, we investigate the regional gradients in 14CO2 over the European continent and quantify the effect of the emissions from nuclear industry. We simulate the emissions and transport of fossil fuel CO2 and nuclear 14CO2 for Western Europe using the Weather Research and Forecast model (WRF-Chem) for a period covering 6 summer months in 2008. We evaluate the expected CO2 gradients and the resulting Δ14CO2 in simulated integrated air samples over this period, as well as in simulated plant samples.
We find that the average gradients of fossil fuel CO2 in the lower 1200 m of the atmosphere are close to 15 ppm at a 12 km × 12 km horizontal resolution. The nuclear influence on Δ14CO2 signatures varies considerably over the domain and for large areas in France and the UK it can range from 20 to more than 500% of the influence of fossil fuel emissions. Our simulations suggest that the resulting gradients in Δ14CO2 are well captured in plant samples, but due to their time-varying uptake of CO2, their signature can be different with over 3‰ from the atmospheric samples in some regions. We conclude that the framework presented will be well-suited for the interpretation of actual air and plant 14CO2 samples.