Intercontinental air pollution transport from North America to Europe: Experimental evidence from airborne measurements and surface observations

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Abstract

[1] During the airborne CONTRACE field experiment carried out in November 2001 a number of polluted layers of North American (NA) origin were observed in the free troposphere over Europe. For the first time, forecasts from a Lagrangian particle dispersion model were used to predict the NA pollution events and to direct a research aircraft very precisely into these polluted layers above Europe. Two of the NA pollution events are investigated here: one in detail (case 19 November) and a second more briefly (case 22 November). An exceptional result was that the first pollution plume could be traced with the model and trace gas measurements (airborne and surface) for a period of one week, from the source region over the eastern United States to its decay over the Alps. On 14–15 November a warm conveyor belt lifted the leading edge of the pollution plume over the eastern United States to the mid troposphere where it remained during the transport over the Atlantic. On 19 November the plume was intersected with the research aircraft over Scandinavia at an altitude between 2 and 4 km. Elevated CO (170), O3 (53), NOy (1.1), acetone (5.0), and SO2 (2.6) mixing ratios (nmol mol−1) were measured. A positive O3-CO correlation was observed in the plume. The observations indicate that the enhanced levels of ozone were already produced near the source region over the eastern United States and not during the transit. In the next days one branch of the plume then turned to the south and descended to ground level over the Alpine region. Elevated O3 (54 nmol mol−1) and CO (168 nmol mol−1) were observed at the mountain site Zugspitze (southern Germany) during two days. At the Arosa Alpine site in Switzerland the highest daily ozone means of November 2001 were observed during this event.

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