1Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
2Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, The Netherlands
3Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
4TNO, Utrecht, The Netherlands
*Invited contribution by G. C. M. Vinken, recipient of the EGU Outstanding Student Poster Award 2011.
Abstract. We present a computationally efficient approach to account for the non-linear chemistry occurring during the dispersion of ship exhaust plumes in a global 3-D model of atmospheric chemistry (GEOS-Chem). We use a plume-in-grid formulation where ship emissions age chemically for 5 h before being released in the global model grid. Besides reducing the original ship NOx emissions in GEOS-Chem, our approach also releases the secondary compounds ozone and HNO3, produced in the 5 h after the original emissions, into the model. We applied our improved method and also the widely used "instant dilution" approach to a 1-yr GEOS-Chem simulation of global tropospheric ozone-NOx-VOC-aerosol chemistry. We also ran simulations with the standard model, and a model without any ship emissions at all. Our improved GEOS-Chem model simulates up to 0.1 ppbv (or 90 %) more NOx over the North Atlantic in July than GEOS-Chem versions without any ship NOx emissions at all. "Instant dilution" overestimates NOx concentrations by 50 % (0.1 ppbv) and ozone by 10–25 % (3–5 ppbv) over this region. These conclusions are supported by comparing simulated and observed NOx and ozone concentrations in the lower troposphere over the Pacific Ocean. The comparisons show that the improved GEOS-Chem model simulates NOx concentrations in between the instant diluting model and the model with no ship emissions, and results in lower O3 concentrations than the instant diluting model. The relative differences in simulated NOx and ozone between our improved approach and instant dilution are smallest over strongly polluted seas (e.g. North Sea), suggesting that accounting for in-plume chemistry is most relevant for pristine marine areas.