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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-736
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Nov 2018

Research article | 01 Nov 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Inter-comparison of Atmospheric Trace Gas Dispersion Models: Barnett Shale Case Study

Anna Karion1, Thomas Lauvaux2, Israel Lopez Coto3, Colm Sweeney4, Kimberly Mueller1, Sharon Gourdji1, Wayne Angevine4,5, Zachary Barkley2, Aijun Deng6, Arlyn Andrews4, Ariel Stein7, and James Whetstone1 Anna Karion et al.
  • 1Special Programs Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
  • 2Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
  • 3Fire Research Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
  • 4Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 5Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 6Utopus Insights, Valhalla, New York, USA
  • 7Air Resources Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, College Park, Maryland, USA

Abstract. Greenhouse gas emissions mitigation requires understanding dominant processes controlling fluxes of these trace gases at increasingly finer spatial and temporal scales. Trace gas fluxes can be estimated using a variety of approaches that translate observed atmospheric species mole fractions into fluxes or emission rates, often identifying the spatial and temporal characteristics of the emissions sources as well. Meteorological models are commonly combined with tracer dispersion models to estimate fluxes using an inverse approach that optimizes emissions to best fit the trace gas mole fraction observations. One way to evaluate the accuracy of atmospheric flux estimation methods is to compare results from independent methods, including approaches in which different meteorological and tracer dispersion models are used. In this work, we use a rich data set of atmospheric methane observations collected during an intensive airborne campaign to compare different methane emissions estimates from the Barnett Shale oil and natural gas production basin in Texas, U.S.A. We estimate emissions based on a variety of different meteorological and dispersion models. Previous estimates of methane emissions from this region relied on a simple model (a mass balance analysis) as well as on ground-based measurements and statistical data analysis (an inventory). We find that in addition to meteorological model choice, the choice of tracer dispersion model also has a significant impact on the predicted downwind methane concentrations given the same emissions field. The dispersion models tested often under-predicted the observed methane enhancements with significant variability between different models and between different days. We examine possible causes for this result and find that the models differ in their simulation of vertical dispersion, indicating that additional work is needed to evaluate and improve vertical mixing in the tracer dispersion models commonly used in regional trace gas flux inversions.

Anna Karion et al.
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In this study, we use atmospheric methane concentration observations collected during an airborne campaign to compare different model-based emissions estimates from the Barnett Shale oil and natural gas production basin in Texas, U.S.A. We find that the tracer dispersion model has a significant impact on the results, because the models differ in their simulation of vertical dispersion. Additional work is needed to evaluate and improve vertical mixing in the tracer dispersion models.
In this study, we use atmospheric methane concentration observations collected during an...
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