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Global Atmospheric Chemistry – Which Air Matters

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Abstract. An approach for analysis and modeling of global atmospheric chemistry is developed for application to measurements that provide a tropospheric climatology of those heterogeneously distributed, reactive species that control the loss of methane and the production and loss of ozone. We identify key species (e.g., O3, NOx, HNO3, HNO4, C2H3NO5, H2O, HOOH, CH3OOH, HCHO, CO, CH4, C2H6, acetaldehyde, acetone), and presume that they can be measured simultaneously in air parcels on the scale of a few km horizontally and a few tenths vertically. Six global models have prepared such climatologies (at model resolution) for August with emphasis on the vast central Pacific and Atlantic Ocean basins. We show clear differences in model generated reactivities as well as species covariances that could readily be discriminated with an unbiased climatology. A primary tool is comparison of multi-dimensional probability densities of key species weighted by frequency of occurrence as well as by the reactivity of the parcels with respect to methane and ozone. The reactivity-weighted probabilities tell us which parcels matter in this case. Testing 100-km scale models with 2-km measurements using these tools also addresses a core question about model resolution and whether fine-scale atmospheric structures matter to the overall ozone and methane budget. A new method enabling these six global chemistry-climate models to ingest an externally-sourced climatology and then compute air parcel reactivity is demonstrated. Such an observed climatology is anticipated from the NASA Atmospheric Tomography (ATom) aircraft mission (2015–2020), measuring the key species, executing profiles over the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean basins. This work is a core part of the design of ATom.

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