14 Oct 2022
14 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Evaluation of simulated CO2 power plant plumes from six high-resolution atmospheric transport models

Dominik Brunnner1, Gerrit Kuhlmann1, Stephan Henne1, Erik Koene1, Bastian Kern2, Sebastian Wolff2, Christiane Voigt2,7, Patrick Jöckel2, Christoph Kiemle2, Anke Roiger2, Alina Fiehn2, Sven Krautwurst3, Konstantin Gerilowski3, Heinrich Bovensmann3, Jakob Borchardt3, Michal Galkowski4, Christoph Gerbig4, Julia Marshall4,2, Andrzej Klonecki5, Pascal Prunet5, Robert Hanfland6,7, Margit Pattantyús-Ábrahám6, Andrzej Wyszogrodzki8, and Andreas Fix2 Dominik Brunnner et al.
  • 1Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 2Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 3Institute for Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 4Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
  • 5SPASCIA, Ramonville Saint Agne, France
  • 6Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Oberschleißheim, Germany
  • 7Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany
  • 8Institute of Meteorology and Water Management - National Research Institute, Warsaw, Poland

Abstract. Global anthropogenic CO2 sources are dominated by power plants and large industrial facilities. Quantifying the emissions of these point sources is therefore one of the main goals of the planned constellation of anthropogenic CO2 monitoring satellites (CO2M) of the European Copernicus program. Atmospheric transport models may be used to study the capabilities of such satellites through observing system simulation experiments and to quantify emissions in an inverse modelling framework. How realistically the CO2 plumes of power plants can be simulated and how strongly the results may depend on model type and resolution, however, is not well known due to a lack of observations available for benchmarking. Here, we use the unique data set of aircraft in-situ and remote sensing observations collected during the CoMet measurement campaign down-wind of the coal-fired power plants at Bełchatów in Poland and Jänschwalde in Germany in 2018 to evaluate the simulations of six different atmospheric transport models. The models include three Large-Eddy-Simulation (LES) models, two mesoscale numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, and one Lagrangian particle dispersion model (LPDM) and cover a wide range of model resolutions from 200 m to 2 km horizontal grid spacing. At the time of the aircraft measurements between late morning and early afternoon, the simulated plumes were slightly (at Jänschwalde) to highly (at Bełchatów) turbulent, consistent with the observations, and extended over the whole depth of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL, up to 1800 m a.s.l. in the case of Bełchatów). The stochastic nature of turbulent plumes puts fundamental limitations to a point-by-point comparison between simulations and observations. Therefore, the evaluation focused on statistical properties such as plume amplitude and width as a function of distance from the source. LES and NWP models showed similar performance and sometimes remarkable agreement with the observations when operated at comparable resolution. A resolution of 1 km or better, however, appears to be necessary to realistically capture turbulent plume structures. At coarser resolution, the plumes disperse too quickly especially in the near field (0–8 km from the source) and turbulent structures are increasingly smoothed out. Total vertical columns are easier to simulate accurately than the vertical distribution of CO2, since the latter is critically affected by profiles of vertical stability, especially near the top of the ABL. Cross-sectional flux and integrated mass enhancement methods applied to synthetic CO2M data generated from the model simulations with a random noise of 0.5 ppm–1.0 ppm suggest that emissions from a power plant like Bełchatów can be estimated with an accuracy of about 20 % from single overpasses. Estimates of the effective wind speed are a critical input for these methods. Wind speeds in the middle of the ABL appear to be a good approximation for plumes in a well-mixed ABL as encountered during CoMet.

Dominik Brunnner et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-645', Anna Karion, 07 Nov 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-645', Ray Nassar, 11 Nov 2022

Dominik Brunnner et al.

Dominik Brunnner et al.


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Short summary
Six atmospheric transport models were evaluated for their capability to simulate the CO2 plumes from two of the largest power plants in Europe by comparing the models against aircraft observations collected during the CoMet campaign in 2018. The study analysed how realistically such plumes can be simulated at different model resolutions and how well the planned European satellite mission CO2M will be able to quantify emissions from power plants.