Investigation of the N2O emission strength in the U. S. Corn Belt

Congsheng Fu, Xuhui Lee, Timothy J. Griffis, Edward J. Dlugokencky, Arlyn E. Andrews

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13 Scopus citations


Nitrous oxide (N2O) has a high global warming potential and depletes stratospheric ozone. The U. S. Corn Belt plays an important role in the global anthropogenic N2O budget. To date, studies on local surface N2O emissions and the atmospheric N2O budget have commonly used Lagrangian models. In the present study, we used an Eulerian model - Weather Research and Forecasting Chemistry (WRF-Chem) model to investigate the relationships between N2O emissions in the Corn Belt and observed atmospheric N2O mixing ratios. We derived a simple equation to relate the emission strengths to atmospheric N2O mixing ratios, and used the derived equation and hourly atmospheric N2O measurements at the KCMP tall tower in Minnesota to constrain agricultural N2O emissions. The modeled spatial patterns of atmospheric N2O were evaluated against discrete observations at multiple tall towers in the NOAA flask network. After optimization of the surface flux, the model reproduced reasonably well the hourly N2O mixing ratios monitored at the KCMP tower. Agricultural N2O emissions in the EDGAR42 database needed to be scaled up by 19.0 to 28.1 fold to represent the true emissions in the Corn Belt for June 1–20, 2010 - a peak emission period. Optimized mean N2O emissions were 3.00–4.38, 1.52–2.08, 0.61–0.81 and 0.56–0.75 nmol m− 2 s− 1 for June 1–20, August 1–20, October 1–20 and December 1–20, 2010, respectively. The simulated spatial patterns of atmospheric N2O mixing ratios after optimization were in good agreement with the NOAA discrete observations during the strong emission peak in June. Such spatial patterns suggest that the underestimate of emissions using IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) inventory methodology is not dependent on tower measurement location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-77
Number of pages12
JournalAtmospheric Research
StatePublished - Sep 15 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by a grant supported by the United States Department of Agriculture grant USDA-NIFA 2013-67019-21364. This research used resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science User Facility supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. This manuscript is a revised version of the discussion paper “Fu, C., Lee, X., Griffis, T. J., Dlugokencky, E. J., and Andrews, A. E.: Relating atmospheric N2O concentration to N2O emission strength in the U. S. Corn Belt, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 2016”

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Corn Belt
  • EDGAR42
  • Inverse analysis
  • KCMP tower
  • Nitrous oxide
  • WRF-Chem


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