Radon-222 in boundary layer and free tropospheric continental outflow events at three ACE-Asia sites

Wlodek Zahorowski*, Scott Chambers, Tao Wang, Chang Hee Kang, Itsushi Uno, Steven Poon, Sung Nam Oh, Sylvester Werczynski, Jiyoung Kim, Ann Henderson-Sellers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


A 1-year record of hourly atmospheric radon-222 concentration observations at three ACE-Asia network sites-Hok Tsui (Hong Kong), Gosan (Jeju Island) and Mauna Loa Observatory (Hawaii)-is presented and discussed. The observations include the spring 2001 ACE-Asia intensive operation period. Site locations were chosen for the experimental characterization of both boundary layer (Hok Tsui, Gosan) and free tropospheric (Mauna Loa) continental outflow to the Pacific. A significant seasonal variability in background radon concentration is quantified at each site with the ratios of winter maximum to summer minimum background of 96, 15 and 3 for Hok Tsui, Gosan and Mauna Loa, respectively. Only during summer were background radon concentrations directly comparable with unperturbed marine values (∼20 mBq M-3). The variability in radon signal was characterized at each site on diurnal to seasonal timescales. The seasonal variability in fetch regions for air masses experiencing the greatest and smallest terrestrial influence was characterized using 10-day back trajectories of air masses corresponding to radon concentrations higher (lower) than the 90th (10th) percentile value. The trajectory analyses for Hok Tsui and Gosan, as well as a direct analysis of the experimental results, further supports the previously postulated existence of a strong spatial heterogeneity in the radon source strength in East Asia. Back trajectories of free tropospheric air masses reaching Mauna Loa indicated source regions deep within the Asian continent primarily between 20 and 40°N. This fetch region is different from that influencing the Hok Tsui and Gosan sites. The radon concentration of air masses reaching Mauna Loa was shown to vary seasonally as well as with latitude of the predominant fetch region. Possible mechanisms of this phenomenon have been identified and include (a) seasonal variation in the radon source, (b) seasonal variation in the strength, frequency and/ or efficiency of mechanisms that lift boundary layer air to the mid troposphere and (c) seasonal variation in the latitudinal axis of convection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-140
Number of pages17
JournalTellus, Series B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


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