Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Research article
17 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 17 Jan 2017

Retrieval of nitric oxide in the mesosphere from SCIAMACHY nominal limb spectra

Stefan Bender, Miriam Sinnhuber, Martin Langowski, and John P. Burrows

Abstract. We present a retrieval algorithm for nitric oxide (NO) number densities from measurements from the SCanning Imaging Absorption spectroMeter for Atmospheric CHartographY (SCIAMACHY, on Envisat) nominal limb mode (0–91 km). The NO number densities are derived from atmospheric emissions in the gamma bands in the range 230–300 nm, measured by the SCIAMACHY ultra-violet (UV) channel 1. The retrieval is adapted from the mesosphere and lower thermosphere mode (MLT, 50–150 km) NO retrieval (Bender et al., 2013), including the same 3-D ray tracing, 2-D retrieval grid, and regularisations with respect to altitude and latitude.

Since the nominal mode limb scans extend only to about 91 km, we use NO densities in the lower thermosphere (above 92 km), derived from empirical models, as a priori input. The priors are the Nitric Oxide Empirical Model (NOEM; Marsh et al., 2004) and a regression model derived from the MLT NO data comparison (Bender et al., 2015). Our algorithm yields plausible NO number densities from 60 to 85 km from the SCIAMACHY nominal limb mode scans. Using a priori input substantially reduces the incorrect attribution of NO from the lower thermosphere, where no direct limb measurements are available. The vertical resolution lies between 5 and 10 km in the altitude range 65–80 km.

Analysing all SCIAMACHY nominal limb scans provides almost 10 years (from August 2002 to April 2012) of daily NO measurements in this altitude range. This provides a unique data record of NO in the upper atmosphere and is invaluable for constraining NO in the mesosphere, in particular for testing and validating chemistry climate models during this period.

Short summary
We present the retrieval of NO number densities from 60 km to 85 km from measurements of SCIAMACHY/Envisat in its nominal limb mode (0–91 km). We derive the densities from the NO gamma bands (230–300 nm). Using prior input reduces the incorrect attribution of NO from the lower thermosphere. The SCIAMACHY nominal limb scans provide almost 10 years of daily NO data in this altitude range, a unique data record to constrain NO in the mesosphere for testing and validating chemistry climate models.