A case study of transpacific warm conveyor belt transport: Influence of merging airstreams on trace gas import to North America



[1] The warm conveyor belt (WCB), the major cloud-forming airstream of midlatitude cyclones, is the primary mechanism for rapidly transporting air pollution from one continent to another. However, relatively little has been written on WCB transport across the North Pacific Ocean. To address this important intercontinental transport route, this study describes the life cycle of a WCB associated with the export of a highly polluted air mass from Asia to North America. This event was sampled using in situ measurements from an aircraft platform flying above the North American West Coast during the 2002 Intercontinental Transport and Chemical Transformation (ITCT 2K2) experiment on 5 May. Satellite imagery, trajectory ensembles, in situ measurements, and animations are used to illustrate the formation of the WCB near eastern Asia, its entrainment of polluted air masses, its transport path across the Pacific, and its decay above the eastern North Pacific Ocean and western North America. A major finding is that a WCB can entrain air from a variety of source regions and not just the atmospheric boundary layer. We estimate that 8% of the WCB's mass originated in the stratosphere and 44% passed through the lower troposphere, of which two thirds passed through the lower troposphere above the populated regions of eastern Asia. The remaining 48% traveled entirely within the middle and upper troposphere over the previous 5.5 days. Interestingly, an estimated 18% of the WCB's mass was entrained from an upwind and decaying WCB via a newly discovered but apparently common transport mechanism. Only 9% of the WCB's mass subsequently passed through the lower troposphere of the United States, with the remainder passing over North America in the middle and upper troposphere.