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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 3, issue 1
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 3, 311–321, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 3, 311–321, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  26 Feb 2010

26 Feb 2010

Analysis of non-methane hydrocarbons in air samples collected aboard the CARIBIC passenger aircraft

A. K. Baker, F. Slemr, and C. A. M. Brenninkmeijer A. K. Baker et al.
  • Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie (MPI), Air Chemistry Division, Johannes-Joachim-Becher Weg 27, 55128 Mainz, Germany

Abstract. The CARIBIC project (Civil Aircraft for the Regular Investigation of the atmosphere Based on an Instrument Container) is a long-term monitoring program making regular atmospheric measurements from an instrument container installed monthly aboard a passenger aircraft. Typical cruising altitudes of the aircraft allow for the study of the free troposphere and the extra-tropical upper troposphere as well as the lowermost stratosphere. CARIBIC measurements include a number of real time analyses as well as the collection of aerosol and whole air samples. These whole air samples are analyzed post-flight for a suite of trace gases, which includes non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC).

The NMHC measurement system and its analytical performance are described here. Precision was found to vary slightly by compound, and is less than 2% for the C2–C6 alkanes and ethyne, and between 1% and 6% for C7–C8 alkanes and aromatic compounds. Preliminary results from participation in a Global Atmospheric Watch (WMO) VOC audit indicate accuracies within the precision of the system. Limits of detection are 1 pptv for most compounds, and up to 3 pptv for some aromatics. These are sufficiently low to measure mixing ratios typically observed in the upper troposphere and lowermost stratosphere for the longer-lived NMHC, however, in air samples from these regions many of the compounds with shorter lifetimes (<5 days) were frequently below the detection limit. Observed NMHC concentrations span several orders of magnitude, dependent on atmospheric region and air mass history, with concentrations typically decreasing with shorter chemical lifetimes.

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