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The importance of transport model uncertainties for the estimation of CO_{2} sources and sinks using satellite measurements

by S Houweling, I Aben, F.-M. Breon, F Chevallier, N Deutscher, R Engelen, C Gerbig, D Griffith, K Hungershoefer, R Macatangay, J Marshall, J Notholt, W Peters, S Serrar show all authors
Atmos. Chem. Phys. ()


This study presents a synthetic model intercomparison to investigate\nthe importance of transport model errors for estimating the sources\nand sinks of CO2 using satellite measurements. The experiments were\ndesigned for testing the potential performance of the proposed CO2\nlidar A-SCOPE, but also apply to other space borne missions that\nmonitor total column CO2. The participating transport models IFS,\nLMDZ, TM3, and TM5 were run in forward and inverse mode using common\na priori CO2 fluxes and initial concentrations. Forward simulations\nof column averaged CO2 (xCO2) mixing ratios vary between the models\nby ?=0.5 ppm over the continents and ?=0.27 ppm over the oceans.\nDespite the fact that the models agree on average on the sub-ppm\nlevel, these modest differences nevertheless lead to significant\ndiscrepancies in the inverted fluxes of 0.1 PgC/yr per 106 km2 over\nland and 0.03 PgC/yr per 106 km2 over the ocean. These transport\nmodel induced flux uncertainties exceed the target requirement that\nwas formulated for the A-SCOPE mission of 0.02 PgC/yr per 106 km2,\nand could also limit the overall performance of other CO2 missions\nsuch as GOSAT. A variable, but overall encouraging agreement is found\nin comparison with FTS measurements at Park Falls, Darwin, Spitsbergen,\nand Bremen, although systematic differences are found exceeding the\n0.5 ppm level. Because of this, our estimate of the impact of transport\nmodel uncerainty is likely to be conservative. It is concluded that\nto make use of the remote sensing technique for quantifying the sources\nand sinks of CO2 not only requires highly accurate satellite instruments,\nbut also puts stringent requirements on the performance of atmospheric\ntransport models. Improving the accuracy of these models should receive\nhigh priority, which calls for a closer collaboration between experts\nin atmospheric dynamics and tracer transport.

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