The seasonal cycle amplitude of total column CO2: Factors behind the model-observation mismatch



[1] CO2 surface fluxes that are statistically consistent with surface layer measurements of CO2, when propagated forward in time by atmospheric transport models, underestimate the seasonal cycle amplitude of total column CO2 in the northern temperate latitudes by 1–2 ppm. In this paper we verify the systematic nature of this underestimation at a number of Total Carbon Column Observation Network (TCCON) stations by comparing their measurements with a number of transport models. In particular, at Park Falls, Wisconsin (United States), we estimate this mismatch to be 1.4 ppm and try to attribute portions of this mismatch to different factors affecting the total column. We find that errors due to (1) the averaging kernel and prior profile used in forward models, (2) water vapor in the model atmosphere, (3) incorrect vertical transport by transport models in the free troposphere, (4) incorrect aging of air in transport models in the stratosphere, and (5) air mass dependence in TCCON data can explain up to 1 ppm of this mismatch. The remaining 0.4 ppm mismatch is at the edge of the ≤0.4 ppm accuracy requirement on satellite measurements to improve on our current estimate of surface fluxes. Uncertainties in the biosphere fluxes driving the transport models could explain a part of the remaining 0.4 ppm mismatch, implying that with corrections to the factors behind the accounted-for 1 ppm underestimation, present inverse modeling frameworks could effectively assimilate satellite CO2 measurements.