Mesoscale numerical investigations of air traffic emissions over the North Atlantic during SONEX flight 8: A case study

George Bieberbach, Henry E. Fuelberg, Anne M. Thompson, Alfons Schmitt, John R. Hannan, G. L. Gregory, Yutaka Kondo, Richard D. Knabb, G. W. Sachse, R. W. Talbot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Chemical data from flight 8 of NASA's Subsonic Assessment (SASS) Ozone and Nitrogen Oxide Experiment (SONEX) exhibited signatures consistent with aircraft emissions, stratospheric air, and surface-based pollution. These signatures are examined in detail, focusing on the broad aircraft emission signatures that are several hundred kilometers in length. A mesoscale meteorological model provides high-resolution wind data that are used to calculate backward trajectories arriving at locations along the flight track. These trajectories are compared to aircraft locations in the North Atlantic Flight Corridor (NAFC) over a 27-33 hour period. Time series of flight level NO and the number of trajectory/aircraft encounters within the NAFC show excellent agreement. Trajectories arriving within the stratospheric and surface-based pollution regions are found to experience very few aircraft encounters. Conversely, there are many trajectory/ aircraft encounters within the two chemical signatures corresponding to aircraft emissions. Even many detailed fluctuations of NO within the two aircraft signature regions correspond to similar fluctuations in aircraft encountered. These NO spikes are due to the superposition of 14 to 25 aircraft plumes transported to the DC-8 flight track during the previous 33 hours. Results confirm that aircraft emissions were responsible for two chemical signatures observed during SONEX flight 8. They also indicate that high-resolution meteorological modeling, when coupled with detailed aircraft location data, is useful for understanding chemical signatures from aircraft emissions at scales of several hundred kilometers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1999JD901036
Pages (from-to)3821-3832
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue numberD3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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