1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
2National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO 80401, USA
3Global Monitoring Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
4Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Abstract. A series of synthetic data experiments is performed to investigate the ability of a regional atmospheric inversion to estimate grid-scale CO2 fluxes during the growing season over North America. The inversions are performed within a geostatistical framework without the use of any prior flux estimates or auxiliary variables, in order to focus on the atmospheric constraint provided by the nine towers collecting continuous, calibrated CO2 measurements in 2004. Using synthetic measurements and their associated concentration footprints, flux and model-data mismatch covariance parameters are first optimized, and then fluxes and their uncertainties are estimated at three different temporal resolutions. These temporal resolutions, which include a four-day average, a four-day-average diurnal cycle with 3-hourly increments, and 3-hourly fluxes, are chosen to help assess the impact of temporal aggregation errors on the estimated fluxes and covariance parameters. Estimating fluxes at a temporal resolution that can adjust the diurnal variability is found to be critical both for recovering covariance parameters directly from the atmospheric data, and for inferring accurate ecoregion-scale fluxes. Accounting for both spatial and temporal a priori covariance in the flux distribution is also found to be necessary for recovering accurate a posteriori uncertainty bounds on the estimated fluxes. Overall, the results suggest that even a fairly sparse network of 9 towers collecting continuous CO2 measurements across the continent, used with no auxiliary information or prior estimates of the flux distribution in time or space, can be used to infer relatively accurate monthly ecoregion scale CO2 surface fluxes over North America within estimated uncertainty bounds. Simulated random transport error is shown to decrease the quality of flux estimates in under-constrained areas at the ecoregion scale, although the uncertainty bounds remain realistic. While these synthetic data inversions do not consider all potential issues associated with using actual measurement data, e.g. systematic transport errors or problems with the boundary conditions, they help to highlight the impact of inversion setup choices, and help to provide a baseline set of CO2 fluxes for comparison with estimates from future real-data inversions.