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Volume 16, issue 5
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3433–3448, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-16-3433-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3433–3448, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-16-3433-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 16 Mar 2016

Research article | 16 Mar 2016

PCBs in the Arctic atmosphere: determining important driving forces using a global atmospheric transport model

Carey L. Friedman1,a and Noelle E. Selin2 Carey L. Friedman and Noelle E. Selin
  • 1Center for Global Change Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • 2Institute for Data, Systems, and Society and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  • anow at: Corning School of Ocean Studies, Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, Maine, USA

Abstract. We present a spatially and temporally resolved global atmospheric polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) model, driven by meteorological data, that is skilled at simulating mean atmospheric PCB concentrations and seasonal cycles in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes and mean Arctic concentrations. However, the model does not capture the observed Arctic summer maximum in atmospheric PCBs. We use the model to estimate global budgets for seven PCB congeners, and we demonstrate that congeners that deposit more readily show lower potential for long-range transport, consistent with a recently described "differential removal hypothesis" regarding the hemispheric transport of PCBs. Using sensitivity simulations to assess processes within, outside, or transport to the Arctic, we examine the influence of climate- and emissions-driven processes on Arctic concentrations and their effect on improving the simulated Arctic seasonal cycle. We find evidence that processes occurring outside the Arctic have a greater influence on Arctic atmospheric PCB levels than processes that occur within the Arctic. Our simulations suggest that re-emissions from sea ice melting or from the Arctic Ocean during summer would have to be unrealistically high in order to capture observed temporal trends of PCBs in the Arctic atmosphere. We conclude that midlatitude processes are likely to have a greater effect on the Arctic under global change scenarios than re-emissions within the Arctic.

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Short summary
We present a new global model to simulate the atmospheric transport of toxic contaminants (PCBs). We evaluate the model against PCB observations in the northern hemisphere midlatitude and Arctic atmosphere. We then use the model to calculate global budgets of PCBs and to examine the influence of climate- and emissions-driven processes on Arctic atmospheric concentrations. We find that processes occurring outside the Arctic have a greater influence on Arctic PCBs than those occurring within.
We present a new global model to simulate the atmospheric transport of toxic contaminants...
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