Transport and chemistry of short-lived pollutants in the Arctic troposphere

By drs. Vincent Huijnen, dr. Peter van Velthoven
KNMI

In Arctic winter, temperatures at the surface become extremely low, leading to a thermally very stable stratification. These surfaces of constant potential temperature form closed domes over the Arctic, isolating the lower troposphere from the rest of the atmosphere by a transport barrier, the so-called “Arctic front”. For this reason the largest contribution to arctic pollution in winter is related to relatively high-latitude European emissions, even though emissions from east Asia are much larger. The extreme dryness of the Arctic troposphere minimizes wet deposition of aerosol during the winter season. Furthermore, the absence of sunlight prohibits the production of the chemically active tracers, such as the hydroxyl radical. This increases the lifetime of polluting tracers, leading to a build-up of pollution during winter, and a haze phenomenon in early spring, the “Arctic haze”. Therefore, despite its remoteness, the Arctic troposphere is sensitive to air pollution from industrialized areas, especially Europe. On the other hand, during the summer season boreal fires are one of the key contributors to Arctic pollution.
In this study we present a model study on short-lived pollutants in the Arctic. We evaluate model results against aircraft observations of trace gases that were carried out as part of the International Polar Year, during spring and summer 2008. A model intercomparison shows the uncertainties that emerge from the application of different chemistry transport models, and from the application of a recent emission inventory. This study helps to understand the origins and fate of observed pollution levels in the Arctic troposphere.

Willem Barentsz Poolinstituut

Bundeling van kennis, onderzoek en onderwijs over de Noord- en de Zuidpool

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