Impacts of different characterizations of large-scale background on simulated regional-scale ozone over the continental United States
This study analyzes simulated regional-scale ozone burdens both near the surface and aloft, estimates process contributions to these burdens, and calculates the sensitivity of the simulated regional-scale ozone burden to several key model inputs with a particular emphasis on boundary conditions derived from hemispheric or global-scale models. The Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model simulations supporting this analysis were performed over the continental US for the year 2010 within the context of the Air Quality Model Evaluation International Initiative (AQMEII) and Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (TF-HTAP) activities. CMAQ process analysis (PA) results highlight the dominant role of horizontal and vertical advection on the ozone burden in the mid-to-upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Vertical mixing, including mixing by convective clouds, couples fluctuations in free-tropospheric ozone to ozone in lower layers. Hypothetical bounding scenarios were performed to quantify the effects of emissions, boundary conditions, and ozone dry deposition on the simulated ozone burden. Analysis of these simulations confirms that the characterization of ozone outside the regional-scale modeling domain can have a profound impact on simulated regional-scale ozone. This was further investigated by using data from four hemispheric or global modeling systems (Chemistry – Integrated Forecasting Model (C-IFS), CMAQ extended for hemispheric applications (H-CMAQ), the Goddard Earth Observing System model coupled to chemistry (GEOS-Chem), and AM3) to derive alternate boundary conditions for the regional-scale CMAQ simulations. The regional-scale CMAQ simulations using these four different boundary conditions showed that the largest ozone abundance in the upper layers was simulated when using boundary conditions from GEOS-Chem, followed by the simulations using C-IFS, AM3, and H-CMAQ boundary conditions, consistent with the analysis of the ozone fields from the global models along the CMAQ boundaries. Using boundary conditions from AM3 yielded higher springtime ozone columns burdens in the middle and lower troposphere compared to boundary conditions from the other models. For surface ozone, the differences between the AM3-driven CMAQ simulations and the CMAQ simulations driven by other large-scale models are especially pronounced during spring and winter where they can reach more than 10 ppb for seasonal mean ozone mixing ratios and as much as 15 ppb for domain-averaged daily maximum 8 h average ozone on individual days. In contrast, the differences between the C-IFS-, GEOS-Chem-, and H-CMAQ-driven regional-scale CMAQ simulations are typically smaller. Comparing simulated surface ozone mixing ratios to observations and computing seasonal and regional model performance statistics revealed that boundary conditions can have a substantial impact on model performance. Further analysis showed that boundary conditions can affect model performance across the entire range of the observed distribution, although the impacts tend to be lower during summer and for the very highest observed percentiles. The results are discussed in the context of future model development and analysis opportunities.