It is a widely established fact that standard semi-Lagrangian advection schemes are highly efficient numerical techniques for simulating the transport of atmospheric tracers. However, as they are not formally mass conserving, it is essential to use some method for restoring mass conservation in long time range forecasts. A common approach is to use global mass fixers. This is the case of the semi-Lagrangian advection scheme in the Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) model used by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
Mass fixers are algorithms with substantial differences in complexity and sophistication but in general of low computational cost. This paper shows the positive impact mass fixers have on the inter-hemispheric gradient of total atmospheric column-averaged CO₂ and CH₄, a crucial feature of their spatial distribution. Two algorithms are compared: the simple "proportional" and the more complex Bermejo-Conde schemes. The former is widely used by several Earth system climate models as well the CAMS global forecasts and analysis of atm ... mehrospheric composition, while the latter has been recently implemented in IFS. Comparisons against total column observations demonstrate that the proportional mass fixer is shown to be suitable for the low-resolution simulations, but for the high-resolution simulations the Bermejo-Conde scheme clearly gives better results. These results have potential repercussions for climate Earth system models using proportional mass fixers as their resolution increases. It also emphasises the importance of benchmarking the tracer mass fixers with the inter-hemispheric gradient of long-lived greenhouse gases using observations.