Articles | Volume 15, issue 20
Research article
23 Oct 2015
Research article |  | 23 Oct 2015

Sensitivity analysis of the potential impact of discrepancies in stratosphere–troposphere exchange on inferred sources and sinks of CO2

F. Deng, D. B. A. Jones, T. W. Walker, M. Keller, K. W. Bowman, D. K. Henze, R. Nassar, E. A. Kort, S. C. Wofsy, K. A. Walker, A. E. Bourassa, and D. A. Degenstein

Abstract. The upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) represents a transition region between the more dynamically active troposphere and more stably stratified stratosphere. The region is characterized by strong gradients in the distribution of long-lived tracers, whose representation in models is sensitive to discrepancies in transport. We evaluate the GEOS-Chem model in the UTLS using carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3) observations from the HIAPER (The High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research) Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) campaign in March 2010. GEOS-Chem CO2/O3 correlation suggests that there is a discrepancy in mixing across the tropopause in the model, which results in an overestimate of CO2 and an underestimate of O3 in the Arctic lower stratosphere. We assimilate stratospheric O3 data from the Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imager System (OSIRIS) and use the assimilated O3 fields together with the HIPPO CO2/O3 correlations to obtain an adjustment to the modeled CO2 profile in the Arctic UTLS (primarily between the 320 and 360 K isentropic surfaces). The HIPPO-derived adjustment corresponds to a sink of 0.60 Pg C for March–August 2010 in the Arctic. Imposing this adjustment results in a reduction in the CO2 sinks inferred from GOSAT observations for temperate North America, Europe, and tropical Asia of 19, 13, and 49 %, respectively. Conversely, the inversion increased the source of CO2 from tropical South America by 23 %. We find that the model also underestimates CO2 in the upper tropical and subtropical troposphere. Correcting for the underestimate in the model relative to HIPPO in the tropical upper troposphere leads to a reduction in the source from tropical South America by 77 %, and produces an estimated sink for tropical Asia that is only 19 % larger than the standard inversion (without the imposed source and sink). Globally, the inversion with the Arctic and tropical adjustment produces a sink of −6.64 Pg C, which is consistent with the estimate of −6.65 Pg C in the standard inversion. However, the standard inversion produces a stronger northern land sink by 0.98 Pg C to account for the CO2 overestimate in the high-latitude UTLS, suggesting that this UTLS discrepancy can impact the latitudinal distribution of the inferred sources and sinks. We find that doubling the model resolution from 4° × 5° to 2° × 2.5° enhances the CO2 vertical gradient in the high-latitude UTLS, and reduces the overestimate in CO2 in the extratropical lower stratosphere. Our results illustrate that discrepancies in the CO2 distribution in the UTLS can affect CO2 flux inversions and suggest the need for more careful evaluation of model errors in the UTLS.

Short summary
The upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) is characterized by strong gradients in the distribution of long-lived tracers, which are sensitive to discrepancies in transport in models. We found that our model overestimates CO2 in the polar UTLS through comparison of modeled CO2 with aircraft observations. We then corrected the modeled CO2 and quantified the impact of the correction on the flux estimates using an atmospheric model together with atmospheric CO2 measured from a satellite.
Final-revised paper