Air Parcel Residence Times within Tropical Forest Canopies and Implications for Reactive Gases

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Tobias Gerken1, Marcelo Chamecki2 and Jose D Fuentes1, (1)Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, United States, (2)Pennsylvania State University, Department of Meteorology, University Park, PA, United States
The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest natural emitter of reactive trace gases. Due to its dense vegetation (leaf area index > 4), turbulence fluctuations are highly attenuated deep inside the canopy. However, strong coherent eddies that penetrate the upper portion of the canopy can be very effective in transporting gases. Sweeps and ejections act in the order of seconds and transport air parcels into or out of the canopy. The effects of coherent structures on the air parcel residence times and associated chemical processing of reactive gases remain largely unquantified in tropical forests.

We combine canopy resolving Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) and field observations in the Brazilian Amazon to study residence times of air parcels in the rainforest as a function of canopy structure and height (h). Good agreement is obtained between simulated and observed turbulence statistics within and above the forest. Coherent structure properties obtained from quadrant analysis are also well reproduced. A Lagrangian particle tracking algorithm is used to quantify the distribution of residence times of air parcels “released” at different heights.

Canopy residence times were determined from the particle trajectories. The resulting probability density function (PDF) strongly depended on the particle release height (z). For particles released in the upper canopy (at z/h=0.75) the most frequent residence times were in the order of 30s, with 50% of all particles ejected from the canopy after ~2 minutes. The mean residence time was close to 5 minutes, indicating a very skewed PDF. At z/h=0.25 the PDF was more evenly distributed with its median and mean in the order of ~10 minutes. Due to sweeps, both simulations had a non- negligible fraction of particles transported deep into the canopy, thus increasing greatly their residence times. As the reaction timescales of many biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOC) are in the order of seconds to minutes, significant chemical processing can take place before particles are transported out of the canopy. This result highlights the importance of coherent motions on the capability of BVOC to escape the canopy space. Hence, it is important to consider the real distribution of residence times, highlighting the need for accurate canopy representation in LES models.