A kinetic chemistry tagging technique and its application to modelling the stable isotopic composition of atmospheric trace gases
Abstract. Isotope composition, in many cases, holds unique information on the sources, chemical modification and sinks of atmospheric trace gases. Vital to the interpretation and use of an increasing number of isotope analyses is appropriate modelling. However, the exact implementation of isotopic information in chemistry-climate models is a challenge, and often studies use simplifications which limit their applicability. Here we implement a thorough isotopic extension in MECCA, a comprehensive kinetic chemistry sub-model. To this end, we devise a generic tagging technique for the kinetic chemistry mechanisms implemented as the sub-submodel MECCA-TAG. The technique is diagnostic and numerically efficient and supports the investigation of various aspects of kinetic chemistry schemes. We focus specifically on the application to the modelling of stable isotopic composition. The results of MECCA-TAG are evaluated against the reference sub-submodel MECCA-DBL, which is implicitly full-detailed, but computationally expensive and thus sub-optimal in practical applications. Furthermore, we evaluate the elaborate carbon and oxygen isotopic mechanism by simulating the multi-isotope composition of CO and other trace gases in the CAABA/MECCA box-model. The mechanism realistically simulates the oxygen isotope composition of key species, as well as the carbon isotope signature transfer. The model adequately reproduces the isotope chemistry features for CO, taking into account the limits of the modelling domain. In particular, the mass-independently fractionated (MIF) composition of CO due to reactions of ozone with unsaturated hydrocarbons (a source effect) versus its intrinsic MIF enrichment induced in the removal reaction via oxidation by OH is assessed. The simulated ozone source effect was up to +1‰ in Δ17O(CO). The versatile modelling framework we employ (the Modular Earth Submodel System, MESSy) opens the way for implementation of the novel detailed isotopic chemistry treatment in the three-dimensional atmospheric-chemistry general circulation model EMAC. We therefore also present estimates of the computational gain obtained by the developed optimisations.