Impact of physical parameterizations and initial conditions on simulated atmospheric transport and CO2 mole fractions in the US Midwest

Liza Díaz-Isaac, Thomas Lauvaux, Kenneth Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Atmospheric transport model errors are one of the main contributors to the uncertainty affecting CO2 inverse flux estimates. In this study, we determine the leading causes of transport errors over the US upper Midwest with a large set of simulations generated with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale model. The various WRF simulations are performed using different meteorological driver datasets and physical parameterizations including planetary boundary layer (PBL) schemes, land surface models (LSMs), cumulus parameterizations and microphysics parameterizations. All the different model configurations were coupled to CO2 fluxes and lateral boundary conditions from the CarbonTracker inversion system to simulate atmospheric CO2 mole fractions. PBL height, wind speed, wind direction, and atmospheric CO2 mole fractions are compared to observations during a month in the summer of 2008, and statistical analyses were performed to evaluate the impact of both physics parameterizations and meteorological datasets on these variables. All of the physical parameterizations and the meteorological initial and boundary conditions contribute 3 to 4ppm to the model-to-model variability in daytime PBL CO2 except for the microphysics parameterization which has a smaller contribution. PBL height varies across ensemble members by 300 to 400m, and this variability is controlled by the same physics parameterizations. Daily PBL CO2 mole fraction errors are correlated with errors in the PBL height. We show that specific model configurations systematically overestimate or underestimate the PBL height averaged across the region with biases closely correlated with the choice of LSM, PBL scheme, and cumulus parameterization (CP). Domain average PBL wind speed is overestimated in nearly every model configuration. Both planetary boundary layer height (PBLH) and PBL wind speed biases show coherent spatial variations across the Midwest, with PBLH overestimated averaged across configurations by 300-400m in the west, and PBL winds overestimated by about 1msĝ'1 on average in the east. We find model configurations with lower biases averaged across the domain, but no single configuration is optimal across the entire region and for all meteorological variables. We conclude that model ensembles that include multiple physics parameterizations and meteorological initial conditions are likely to be necessary to encompass the atmospheric conditions most important to the transport of CO2 in the PBL, but that construction of such an ensemble will be challenging due to ensemble biases that vary across the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14813-14835
Number of pages23
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 16 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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