1National Environmental Research Institute, Department of Atmospheric Environment, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
2University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
3Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l-Environnement, UMR CEA-CNRS 1572, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
4Energieonderzoek Centrum Nederland (ECN), 1755 ZG Petten, The Netherlands
5Finnish Meteorological Institute Air Quality Research, Sahaajankatu 20E 00810 Helsinki, Finland
6Hungarian Meteorological Service P.O. Box 39, 1675 Budapest, Hungary
7Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie, 07701 Jena, Germany
8CESI ApA, Via r. Rubattino 54, 20134 Milano, Italy
9Italian Air Force Meteorological Service, Via delle Ville, 40, 41029 Sestola (MO), Italy
Abstract. The CO2 source and sink distribution across Europe can be estimated in principle through inverse methods by combining CO2 observations and atmospheric transport models. Uncertainties of such estimates are mainly due to insufficient spatiotemporal coverage of CO2 observations and biases of the models. In order to assess the biases related to the use of different models the CO2 concentration field over Europe has been simulated with five different Eulerian atmospheric transport models as part of the EU-funded AEROCARB project, which has the main goal to estimate the carbon balance of Europe. In contrast to previous comparisons, here both global coarse-resolution and regional higher-resolution models are included. Continuous CO2 observations from continental, coastal and mountain in-situ atmospheric stations as well as flask samples sampled on aircrafts are used to evaluate the models' ability to capture the spatiotemporal variability and distribution of lower troposphere CO2 across Europe. 14CO2 is used in addition to evaluate separately fossil fuel signal predictions. The simulated concentrations show a large range of variation, with up to ~10 ppm higher surface concentrations over Western and Central Europe in the regional models with highest (mesoscale) spatial resolution.
The simulation – data comparison reveals that generally high-resolution models are more successful than coarse models in capturing the amplitude and phasing of the observed short-term variability. At high-altitude stations the magnitude of the differences between observations and models and in between models is less pronounced, but the timing of the diurnal cycle is not well captured by the models.
The data comparisons show also that the timing of the observed variability on hourly to daily time scales at low-altitude stations is generally well captured by all models. However, the amplitude of the variability tends to be underestimated. While daytime values are quite well predicted, nighttime values are generally underpredicted. This is a reflection of the different mixing regimes during day and night combined with different vertical resolution between models. In line with this finding, the agreement among models is increased when sampling in the afternoon hours only and when sampling the mixed portion of the PBL, which amounts to sampling at a few hundred meters above ground. Main recommendations resulting from the study for constraining land carbon sources and sinks using high-resolution concentration data and state-of-the art transport models are therefore: 1) low altitude stations are preferable over high altitude stations as these locations are difficult to represent in state-of-the art models, 2) at low altitude stations only afternoon values can be represented sufficiently well to be used to constrain large-scale sources and sinks in combination with transport models, 3) even when using only afternoon values it is clear that data sampled several hundred meters above ground can be represented substantially more robust in models than surface station records, and finally 4) traditional large scale transport models seem not sufficient to resolve CO2 distributions over regions of the size of for example Spain and thus seem too coarse for interpretation of continental data.