1Laboratoire d'Aérologie/OMP, Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France
2CNRS UMR 5560, Toulouse, France
3KNMI, De Bilt, The Netherlands
4LATMOS/IPSL, UPMC, Paris, France
5Centre for Atmospheric Science and Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
6CNRM-GAME, Météo-France and CNRS URA 1357, Toulouse, France
7Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
Abstract. Within the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA), we investigate the impact of nitrogen oxides produced by lightning (LiNOx) and convective transport during the West African Monsoon (WAM) upon the composition of the upper troposphere (UT) in the tropics. For this purpose, we have performed simulations with 4 state-of-the-art chemistry transport models involved within AMMA, namely MOCAGE, TM4, LMDz-INCA and p-TOMCAT. The model intercomparison is complemented with an evaluation of the simulations based on both spaceborne and airborne observations. The baseline simulations show important differences between the UT CO and O3 distributions simulated by each of the 4 models when compared to measurements of the African latitudinal transect from the MOZAIC program and to distributions measured by the Aura/MLS spaceborne sensor. We show that such model discrepancies can be explained by differences in the convective transport parameterizations and, more particularly, the altitude reached by convective updrafts (ranging between ~200–125 hPa). Concerning UT O3, the majority of models exhibit low concentrations compared to both MOZAIC and MLS observations south of the equator, with good agreement in the Northern Hemisphere. Sensitivity studies are performed to quantify the effect of deep convective transport and the influence of LiNOx production on the UT composition. These clearly indicate that the CO maxima and the elevated O3 concentrations south of the equator are due to convective uplift of air masses impacted by Southern African biomass burning, in agreement with previous studies. Moreover, during the WAM, LiNOx from Africa are responsible for the highest UT O3 enhancements (10–20 ppbv) over the tropical Atlantic between 10° S–20° N. Differences between models are primarily due to the performance of the parameterizations used to simulate lightning activity which are evaluated using spaceborne observations of flash frequency. Combined with comparisons of in-situ NO measurements we show that the models producing the highest amounts of LiNOx over Africa during the WAM (INCA and p-TOMCAT) capture observed NO profiles with the best accuracy, although they both overestimate lightning activity over the Sahel.