Airborne flux measurements of trace species in an Arctic boundary layer


  • John A. Ritter,

  • John D. W. Barrick,

  • Glen W. Sachse,

  • Gerald L. Gregory,

  • Mary A. Woerner,

  • Catherine E. Watson,

  • Gerald F. Hill,

  • James E. Collins Jr.


In situ airborne measurements of the turbulent flux and mean values for O3, CO, and CH4 were obtained in the boundary layer over selected wetland systems in Alaska. These measurements were obtained in July–August 1988 as part of the NASA Global Tropospheric Experiment Program's Arctic Boundary Layer Expedition (ABLE 3A). The flux measurements obtained from this study provide information on the source/sink distribution of O3 and CH4 over the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (YKD) and Alaskan North Slope (ANS) regions of Alaska. The source/sink distribution over the YKD is qualitatively correlated with surface vegetation type, identified from multispectral scanner imagery. Direct measurements of the spatial variation in the CH4 source strength were obtained over the YKD. The CH4 source strength over the YKD ranged from 25 to 85 mg m−2 d−1 during a flux survey flight which spanned a considerable portion of the YKD. A spatially averaged, seasonally adjusted source strength of 51 mg m−2 d−1 was established for the YKD. Indirect CH4 flux estimates obtained over the ANS indicate a much lower (∼10 mg m−2 d−1) source strength. The global CH4 emissions from tundra were estimated to be 44 Tg/a based on (1) the spatially averaged source strength obtained over the YKD, (2) current estimates of the global coverage of tundra, and (3) assuming a similarity between other tundra areas and that of the YKD. This estimate is taken to be an upper limit due to possible sampling inadequacies and because the spatial distribution of the CH4 source function over the YKD may not extend to all other northern wetland regions. This estimate is, however, in reasonable agreement with previous estimates. Airborne CO flux measurements over the YKD indicated low negative flux values over the coastal areas, while some positive fluxes were observed in the inland, sparsely forested regions. An inspection of the cospectrum of CO with vertical velocity for sample runs in coastal areas indicated a minimum at wavelengths which were noticeably shorter (70–400 m) than where any prominent feature could be found for similar cospectrums of heat, moisture, O3, or CH4 with vertical velocity. Similar analyses for transects over inland areas indicated occasional peaks in this same, short wavelength band. These features indicate the possibility of in situ photochemical destruction/production of CO, although the identification of a possible chemical mechanism was not attempted at this time. Tundra surfaces are estimated to be responsible for ∼32% of the total deposition loss of O3 poleward of 60°N. Data from the airborne O3 flux measurements made during this study indicate similar values of Rc for the ANS and YKD regions.