NWC REU 2018
May 21 - July 31



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Diurnal and seasonal patterns of carbon dioxide and its vertical structure in the atmosphere

Morgan Clark


What is already known:

  • Carbon dioxide concentrations vary between the planetary boundary layer and the free troposphere with higher concentrations observed in the boundary layer.
  • Studying sources and sinks carbon dioxide emissions provides a better understanding of what controls the total warming of the earth.
  • Net ecosystem exchange controls the magnitude of carbon dioxide uptake.

What this study adds:

  • It investigates drivers of carbon dioxide in the boundary layer.
  • The diurnal patterns of carbon dioxide concentrations show how it moves in the boundary layer.
  • The vertical profiles of carbon dioxide concentrations collected by a manned aircraft in Lamont, OK are shown and compared to WRF-VPRM vertical profiles.
  • The net ecosystem exchange is analyzed as well as its drivers in Lamont.


Understanding carbon dioxide (CO2) sources and sinks provides us with the information necessary to con- trol the planet’s total warming. The planetary boundary layer (PBL) retains a significant amount of emissions. To understand local emissions, it is useful to partition CO2 emissions between the PBL and free troposphere. This paper analyzes model output data using the weather research and forecasting, vegetation photosynthe- sis respiration model (WRF-VPRM) and manned aircraft data collected in Lamont, Oklahoma. This analysis studies the vertical gradients of CO2 in the atmosphere as well as the seasonal and diurnal cycles of emissions. The results are compared to prior studies. The main drivers of CO2 in the PBL are investigated diurnally as well as for monthly averages.

Full Paper [PDF]