- Journal Article
Summary: We conduct three simulations of atmospheric chemistry using chemical mechanisms of different levels of complexity and compare their results to observations. We explore situations in which the simplified mechanisms match the output of the most complex mechanism, as well as when they diverge. We investigate how the concurrent utilization of chemical mechanisms of different complexities can further our understanding of atmospheric chemistry at various scales and some strategies for future research.
Abstract: While state-of-the-art complex chemical mechanisms expand our understanding of atmospheric chemistry, their sheer size and computational requirements often limit simulations to short length, or ensembles to only a few members. Here we present and compare three 25-year offline simulations with chemical mechanisms of different levels of complexity using CESM Version 1.2 CAM-chem (CAM4): the MOZART-4 mechanism, the Reduced Hydrocarbon mechanism, and the Super-Fast mechanism. We show that, for most regions and time periods, differences in simulated ozone chemistry between these three mechanisms is smaller than the model-observation differences themselves. The MOZART-4 mechanism and the Reduced Hydrocarbon are in close agreement in their representation of ozone throughout the troposphere during all time periods (annual, seasonal and diurnal). While the Super-Fast mechanism tends to have higher simulated ozone variability and differs from the MOZART-4 mechanism over regions of high biogenic emissions, it is surprisingly capable of simulating ozone adequately given its simplicity. We explore the trade-offs between chemical mechanism complexity and computational cost by identifying regions where the simpler mechanisms are comparable to the MOZART-4 mechanism, and regions where they are not. The Super-Fast mechanism is three times as fast as the MOZART-4 mechanism, which allows for longer simulations, or ensembles with more members, that may not be feasible with the MOZART-4 mechanism given limited computational resources.