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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Dec 2018

Research article | 04 Dec 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).

Accounting for the vertical distribution of emissions in atmospheric CO2 simulations

Dominik Brunner1, Gerrit Kuhlmann1, Julia Marshall2, Valentin Clément3,4, Oliver Fuhrer4, Grégoire Broquet5, Armin Löscher6, and Yasjka Meijer6 Dominik Brunner et al.
  • 1Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Überlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 2Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC), Jena, Germany
  • 3Center for Climate Systems Modelling (C2SM), ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4MeteoSwiss, Kloten, Switzerland
  • 5Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris Saclay, 91191, Gif-sur-Yvette CEDEX, France
  • 6European Space Agency (ESA), ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands

Abstract. Inverse modeling of anthropogenic and biospheric CO2 fluxes from ground-based and satellite observations critically depends on the accuracy of atmospheric transport simulations. Previous studies emphasized the impact of errors in simulated winds and vertical mixing in the planetary boundary layer, whereas the potential importance of releasing emissions not only at the surface but distributing them in the vertical was largely neglected. Accounting for elevated emissions may be critical, since more than 50 % of CO2 in Europe is emitted by large point sources such as power plants and industrial facilities. In this study we conduct high-resolution atmospheric simulations of CO2 with the mesoscale model COSMO-GHG over a domain covering the city of Berlin and several coal-fired power plants in eastern Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. By including separate tracers for anthropogenic CO2 emitted only at the surface or according to realistic, source-dependent profiles, we find that releasing CO2 only at the surface overestimates near-surface CO2 concentrations in the afternoon on average by 14 % in summer and 43 % in winter over the selected model domain. Differences in column mean dry air mole fractions XCO2 are smaller, between 5 % in winter and 8 % in summer, suggesting smaller yet non-negligible sensitivities for inversion modeling studies assimilating satellite rather than surface observations. The results suggests that the traditional approach of emitting CO2 only at the surface is problematic and that a proper allocation of emissions in the vertical deserves as much attention as an accurate simulation of atmospheric transport.

Dominik Brunner et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
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Dominik Brunner et al.
Dominik Brunner et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Atmospheric transport models are increasingly being used to estimate CO2 emissions from atmospheric CO2 measurements. This study demonstrates the importance of distributing CO2 emissions vertically in the model according to realistic profiles, since a major proportion of CO2 is emitted through tall stacks from power plants and industrial sources. With the traditional approach of emitting all CO2 at the surface, models may significantly overestimate the atmospheric CO2 levels.
Atmospheric transport models are increasingly being used to estimate CO2 emissions from...