Projects per year
Assessment of the impacts of atmospheric N deposition on the ocean requires atmospheric chemical transport models to report deposition fluxes, however these fluxes cannot be measured over the ocean. Modelling studies such as the Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Model Intercomparison Project (ACCMIP), which only report deposition flux are therefore very difficult to validate for dry deposition. Here the available observational data were averaged over a 5° x 5° grid and compared to ACCMIP dry deposition fluxes (ModDep) of oxidised N (NOy) and reduced N (NHx) and to the following parameters from the TM4-ECPL (TM4) model: ModDep for NOy, NHx and particulate NO3- and NH4+, and surface-level particulate NO3- and NH4+ concentrations. As a model ensemble, ACCMIP can be expected to be more robust than TM4, while TM4 gives access to speciated parameters (NO3- and NH4+) that are more relevant to the observed parameters and which are not available in ACCMIP. Dry deposition fluxes (CalDep) were calculated from the observed concentrations using estimates of dry deposition velocities. Model – observation ratios, weighted by grid-cell area and numbers of observations, (RA,n) were used to assess the performance of the models. Comparison in the three study regions suggests that TM4 over-estimates NO3- concentrations (RA,n = 1.4 – 2.9) and under-estimates NH4+ concentrations (RA,n = 0.5 – 0.7), with spatial distributions in the tropical Atlantic and northern Indian Ocean not being reproduced by the model. In the case of NH4+ in the Indian Ocean, this discrepancy was probably due to seasonal biases in the sampling. Similar patterns were observed in the various comparisons of CalDep to ModDep (RA,n = 0.6 – 2.6 for NO3-, 0.6 – 3.1 for NH4+). Values of RA,n for NHx CalDep - ModDep comparisons were approximately double the corresponding values for NH4+ CalDep - ModDep comparisons due to the significant fraction of gas-phase NH3 deposition incorporated in the TM4 and ACCMIP NHx model products. All of the comparisons suffered due to the scarcity of observational data and the large uncertainty in dry deposition velocities used to derive deposition fluxes from concentrations. These uncertainties have been a major limitation on estimates of the flux of material to the oceans for several decades. Recommendations are made for improvements in N deposition estimation through changes in observations, modelling and model – observation comparison procedures. Validation of modelled dry deposition requires effective comparisons to observable aerosol-phase species concentrations and this cannot be achieved if model products only report dry deposition flux over the ocean.