Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
Research article
03 May 2018
Research article |  | 03 May 2018

Detection of carbon monoxide pollution from cities and wildfires on regional and urban scales: the benefit of CO column retrievals from SCIAMACHY 2.3 µm measurements under cloudy conditions

Tobias Borsdorff, Josip Andrasec, Joost aan de Brugh, Haili Hu, Ilse Aben, and Jochen Landgraf

Abstract. In the perspective of the upcoming TROPOMI Sentinel-5 Precursor carbon monoxide data product, we discuss the benefit of using CO total column retrievals from cloud-contaminated SCIAMACHY 2.3 µm shortwave infrared spectra to detect atmospheric CO enhancements on regional and urban scales due to emissions from cities and wildfires. The study uses the operational Sentinel-5 Precursor algorithm SICOR, which infers the vertically integrated CO column together with effective cloud parameters. We investigate its capability to detect localized CO enhancements distinguishing between clear-sky observations and observations with low (<  1.5 km) and medium–high clouds (1.5–5 km). As an example, we analyse CO enhancements over the cities Paris, Los Angeles and Tehran as well as the wildfire events in Mexico–Guatemala 2005 and Alaska–Canada 2004. The CO average of the SCIAMACHY full-mission data set of clear-sky observations can detect weak CO enhancements of less than 10 ppb due to air pollution in these cities. For low-cloud conditions, the CO data product performs similarly well. For medium–high clouds, the observations show a reduced CO signal both over Tehran and Los Angeles, while for Paris no significant CO enhancement can be detected. This indicates that information about the vertical distribution of CO can be obtained from the SCIAMACHY measurements. Moreover, for the Mexico–Guatemala fires, the low-cloud CO data captures a strong outflow of CO over the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean and so provides complementary information to clear-sky retrievals, which can only be obtained over land. For both burning events, enhanced CO values are even detectable with medium–high-cloud retrievals, confirming a distinct vertical extension of the pollution. The larger number of additional measurements, and hence the better spatial coverage, significantly improve the detection of wildfire pollution using both the clear-sky and cloudy CO retrievals. Due to the improved instrument performance of the TROPOMI instrument with respect to its precursor SCIAMACHY, the upcoming Sentinel-5 Precursor CO data product will allow improved detection of CO emissions and their vertical extension over cities and fires, making new research applications possible.