Articles | Volume 4, issue 9
Research article
16 Sep 2011
Research article |  | 16 Sep 2011

An improved tropospheric NO2 column retrieval algorithm for the Ozone Monitoring Instrument

K. F. Boersma, H. J. Eskes, R. J. Dirksen, R. J. van der A, J. P. Veefkind, P. Stammes, V. Huijnen, Q. L. Kleipool, M. Sneep, J. Claas, J. Leitão, A. Richter, Y. Zhou, and D. Brunner

Abstract. We present an improved tropospheric nitrogen dioxide column retrieval algorithm (DOMINO v2.0) for OMI based on better air mass factors (AMFs) and a correction for across-track stripes resulting from calibration errors in the OMI backscattered reflectances. Since October 2004, NO2 retrievals from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), a UV/Vis nadir spectrometer onboard NASA's EOS-Aura satellite, have been used with success in several scientific studies focusing on air quality monitoring, detection of trends, and NOx emission estimates. Dedicated evaluations of previous DOMINO tropospheric NO2 retrievals indicated their good quality, but also suggested that the tropospheric columns were susceptible to high biases (by 0–40%), probably because of errors in the air mass factor calculations. Here we update the DOMINO air mass factor approach. We calculate a new look-up table (LUT) for altitude-dependent AMFs based on more realistic atmospheric profile parameters, and include more surface albedo and surface pressure reference points than before. We improve the sampling of the TM4 model, resulting in a priori NO2 profiles that are better mixed throughout the boundary layer. We evaluate the NO2 profiles simulated with the improved TM4 sampling as used in the AMF calculations and show that they are highly consistent with in situ NO2 measurements from aircraft during the INTEX-A and INTEX-B campaigns in 2004 and 2006. Our air mass factor calculations are further updated by the implementation of a high-resolution terrain height and a high-resolution surface albedo climatology based on OMI measurements. Together with a correction for across-track stripes, the overall impact of the improved terrain height and albedo descriptions is modest (<5%) on average over large polluted areas, but still causes significant changes locally. The main changes in the DOMINO v2.0 algorithm follow from the new LUT and the improved TM4 sampling that results in more NO2 simulated aloft, where sensitivity to NO2 is higher, and amount to reductions in tropospheric NO2 columns of up to 20% in winter, and 10% in summer over extended polluted areas. We investigate the impact of aerosols on the NO2 retrieval, and based on a comparison of concurrent retrievals of clouds from OMI and aerosols from MODIS Aqua, we find empirical evidence that OMI cloud retrievals are sensitive to the presence of scattering aerosols. It follows that an implicit correction for the effects of aerosols occurs through the aerosol-induced cloud parameters in DOMINO, and we show that such an empirical correction amounts to a 20 %AMF reduction in summer and ±10% changes in winter over the eastern United States.