Articles | Volume 8, issue 19
13 Oct 2008
 | 13 Oct 2008

Interpreting the variability of space-borne CO2 column-averaged volume mixing ratios over North America using a chemistry transport model

P. I. Palmer, M. P. Barkley, and P. S. Monks

Abstract. We use the GEOS-Chem chemistry transport model to interpret the sources and sinks of CO2 that determine variability of column-averaged volume mixing ratios (CVMRs), as observed by the SCIAMACHY satellite instrument, during the 2003 North American growing season. GEOS-Chem generally reproduces the magnitude and seasonal cycle of observed CO2 surface VMRs across North America and is quantitatively consistent with column VMRs in later years. However, it cannot reproduce the magnitude or variability of FSI-WFM-DOAS SCIAMACHY CVMRs. We use model tagged tracers to show that local fluxes largely determine CVMR variability over North America, with the largest individual CVMR contributions (1.1%) from the land biosphere. Fuel sources are relatively constant while biomass burning makes a significant contribution only during midsummer. We also show that non-local sources contribute significantly to total CVMRs over North America, with the boreal Asian land biosphere contributing close to 1% in midsummer at high latitudes. We used the monthly-mean Jacobian matrix for North America to illustrate that:~1) North American CVMRs represent a superposition of many weak flux signatures, but differences in flux distributions should permit independent flux estimation; and 2) the atmospheric e-folding lifetimes for many of these flux signatures are 3–4 months, beyond which time they are too well-mixed to interpret. These long lifetimes will improve the efficacy of observed CVMRs as surface CO2 flux constraints.

Final-revised paper