Tropospheric carbon monoxide: satellite observations and their applications
MacCallum, Stuart Neil
Carbon monoxide (CO) is present in the troposphere as a product of fossil fuel combustion, biomass burning and the oxidation of volatile hydrocarbons. It is the principal sink of the hydroxyl radical (OH), thereby affecting the concentrations of greenhouse gases such as CH4 and O3. Consequently, CO has an atmospheric lifetime of 1-3 months, making it a good tracer for studying the long range transport of pollution. Satellite observations present a valuable tool to investigate tropospheric CO. The Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS), onboard the Aqua satellite, is sensitive to tropospheric CO in ~50 of its 2378 channels. This sensitivity to CO, combined with the daily global coverage provided by AIRS, makes AIRS a potentially useful instrument for observing CO sources and transport. An optimal estimation retrieval scheme has been developed for AIRS, to provide CO profiles from near-surface altitudes to 150 hPa. Through a validation study, using CO profiles from in-situ aircraft measurements, this retrieval scheme has been shown to provide CO observations with strong correlations to in situ measurements. Compared to the operational AIRS v4 CO product this retrieval scheme is shown to provide total column CO retrievals with a reduced bias relative to the in situ measurements (~ -10% to ~ -1%). In addition, the optimal estimation retrieval is shown to provide improved estimation and characterization of the retrieval errors. Further validation work has been carried out through comparison with the established CO observations from the MOPITT instrument, onboard the Terra satellite. Good agreement (correlation coefficient > 0.9, and bias < 1.0 ppbv) between the instruments is observed in the mid-troposphere. At this level, the optimal estimation scheme is shown to remove a positive bias of ~10 ppbv, relative to MOPITT, that is present in the AIRS v4 CO product. The AIRS instrument is also shown to be less sensitive to CO in the lower troposphere than MOPITT. AIRS is also demonstrated to provide fewer pieces of independent information about the vertical structure of CO at tropical latitudes, where higher thermal contrast increases the sensitivity of MOPITT. Through time series analysis, the capability of AIRS to detect seasonal trends in CO is demonstrated. The potential of AIRS to be used to track, both horizontal and vertical, CO transport is explored. AIRS is shown to be capable of tracking horizontal transport, and to have potential to track vertical transport when combined with another satellite sensor.