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Volume 18, issue 13
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 9561-9581, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 9561-9581, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 06 Jul 2018

Research article | 06 Jul 2018

A climatological view of the vertical stratification of RH, O3 and CO within the PBL and at the interface with free troposphere as seen by IAGOS aircraft and ozonesondes at northern mid-latitudes over 1994–2016

Hervé Petetin1, Bastien Sauvage1, Herman G. J. Smit2, François Gheusi1, Fabienne Lohou1, Romain Blot1, Hannah Clark3, Gilles Athier1, Damien Boulanger4, Jean-Marc Cousin1, Philippe Nedelec1, Patrick Neis2, Susanne Rohs2, and Valérie Thouret1 Hervé Petetin et al.
  • 1Laboratoire d'Aérologie, Université de Toulouse, CNRS, UPS, Toulouse, France
  • 2Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung, IEK-8 Troposphere, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 3IAGOS-AISBL, Brussels, Belgium
  • 4Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, Université de Toulouse, CNRS, UPS, Toulouse, France

Abstract. This paper investigates in an innovative way the climatological vertical stratification of relative humidity (RH), ozone (O3) and carbon monoxide (CO) mixing ratios within the planetary boundary layer (PBL) and at the interface with the free troposphere (FT). The climatology includes all vertical profiles available at northern mid-latitudes over the period 1994–2016 in both the IAGOS (In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System) and WOUDC (World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre) databases, which represents more than 90000 vertical profiles. For all individual profiles, apart from the specific case of surface-based temperature inversions (SBIs), the PBL height is estimated following the elevated temperature inversion (EI) method. Several features of both SBIs and EIs are analysed, including their diurnal and seasonal variations. Based on these PBL height estimates (denoted h), the novel approach introduced in this paper consists of building a so-called PBL-referenced vertical distribution of O3, CO and RH by averaging all individual profiles beforehand expressed as a function of zh rather than z (with z the altitude). Using this vertical coordinate system allows us to highlight the features existing at the PBL–FT interface that would have been smoothed otherwise.

Results demonstrate that the frequently assumed well-mixed PBL remains an exception for both chemical species. Within the PBL, CO profiles are characterized by a mean vertical stratification (here defined as the standard deviation of the CO profile between the surface and the PBL top, normalized by the mean) of 11%, with moderate seasonal and diurnal variations. A higher vertical stratification is observed for O3 mixing ratios (18%), with stronger seasonal and diurnal variability (from ∼ 10% in spring–summer midday–afternoon to ∼ 25% in winter–fall night). This vertical stratification is distributed heterogeneously in the PBL with stronger vertical gradients observed at both the surface (due to dry deposition and titration by NO for O3 and due to surface emissions for CO) and the PBL–FT interface. These gradients vary with the season from the lowest values in summer to the highest ones in winter. In contrast to CO, the O3 vertical stratification was found to vary with the surface potential temperature following an interesting bell shape with the weakest stratification for both the lowest (typically negative) and highest temperatures, which could be due to much lower O3 dry deposition in the presence of snow.

Therefore, results demonstrate that EIs act as a geophysical interface separating air masses of distinct chemical composition and/or chemical regime. This is further supported by the analysis of the correlation of O3 and CO mixing ratios between the different altitude levels in the PBL and FT (the so-called vertical autocorrelation). Results indeed highlight lower correlations apart from the PBL–FT interface and higher correlations within each of the two atmospheric compartments (PBL and FT).

The mean climatological O3 and CO PBL-referenced profiles analysed in this study are freely available on the IAGOS portal for all seasons and times of day (

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Based on the numerous profiles available since 1994, this paper investigates the vertical stratification of ozone, carbon monoxide and relative humidity in the lower part of the troposphere (planetary boundary layer, lower free troposphere). Such a characterization of the vertical distribution of pollution is notably important for better understanding vertical exchanges and evaluating models on the vertical dimension.
Based on the numerous profiles available since 1994, this paper investigates the vertical...