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Carbon Dioxide in the Free Troposphere and Boundary Layer at the Mt. Bachelor Observatory

Category: Classification of and the Exchange between the Free Troposphere and Boundary Layer

Volume: 16 | Issue: 3 | Pages: 717-728
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2015.05.0323
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Crystal D. McClure 1, Daniel A. Jaffe2, Honglian Gao2

  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Washington, 408 ATG Building, Box 351640, Seattle, Washington, 98195, USA
  • 2 Department of Science and Technology, University of Washington Bothell, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, Washington, 98011, USA


For 2012–2014, Mt. Bachelor CO2 concentrations increased by 1.48 ppmv year–1.
On average, free tropospheric air shows higher CO2 compared with boundary layer air.
Spring clusters show high O3 and low water vapor associated with high CO2.
CO2 depletion in boundary layer can counteract enhancement from wildfire emissions.
With CO2 enhancement, wildfire emissions are consistent with CO2/CO emission ratios.


We use data for 2012–2014 from the Mt. Bachelor Observatory (MBO) in central Oregon to understand variations in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the free troposphere (FT) and boundary layer (BL). The goals of this analysis are to identify and examine CO2 in FT and BL air, events due to wildfires, the role of transport patterns, and the variation of CO2 seasonally. For all seasons, we found that FT air has higher average CO2 mixing ratios compared to BL air. FT air was most often seen during the night and early morning at MBO (20-8 PST) while BL air was most often observed during the afternoon and evening (12-20 PST). Winter and spring showed the highest mixing ratios of CO2 while summer and fall showed the lowest mixing ratios. The maximum diurnal change in CO2 was found during spring and summer. HYSPLIT back-trajectories and a cluster analysis of those trajectories were initiated for spring months. Based on this analysis, the spring clusters with the highest ozone and lowest water vapor mixing ratios were associated with the highest mixing ratios of CO2. Four case studies of CO2 variations are presented: a long-range transport event observed at MBO and three wildfire events. In one large fire event, CO2 showed a large enhancement and was well correlated with CO. In another fire event, CO2 was observed to decrease, suggesting that depletion in BL air by surface uptake can counteract the enhancements from wildfire emissions.


Carbon dioxide Greenhouse gases Mountain-top observatory Biomass burning Long-Range transport Free troposphere Boundary layer

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