Mechanisms for synoptic variations of atmospheric CO2 in North America, South America and Europe
Abstract. Synoptic variations of atmospheric CO2 produced by interactions between weather and surface fluxes are investigated mechanistically and quantitatively in midlatitude and tropical regions using continuous in-situ CO2 observations in North America, South America and Europe and forward chemical transport model simulations with the Parameterized Chemistry Transport Model. Frontal CO2 climatologies show consistently strong, characteristic frontal CO2 signals throughout the midlatitudes of North America and Europe. Transitions between synoptically identifiable CO2 air masses or transient spikes along the frontal boundary typically characterize these signals. One case study of a summer cold front shows CO2 gradients organizing with deformational flow along weather fronts, producing strong and spatially coherent variations. In order to differentiate physical and biological controls on synoptic variations in midlatitudes and a site in Amazonia, a boundary layer budget equation is constructed to break down boundary layer CO2 tendencies into components driven by advection, moist convection, and surface fluxes. This analysis suggests that, in midlatitudes, advection is dominant throughout the year and responsible for 60–70% of day-to-day variations on average, with moist convection contributing less than 5%. At a site in Amazonia, vertical mixing, in particular coupling between convective transport and surface CO2 flux, is most important, with advection responsible for 26% of variations, moist convection 32% and surface flux 42%. Transport model sensitivity experiments agree with budget analysis. These results imply the existence of a recharge-discharge mechanism in Amazonia important for controlling synoptic variations of boundary layer CO2, and that forward and inverse simulations should take care to represent moist convective transport. Due to the scarcity of tropical observations at the time of this study, results in Amazonia are not generalized for the tropics, and future work should extend analysis to additional tropical locations.