Articles | Volume 4, issue 2
Research article
10 Feb 2011
Research article |  | 10 Feb 2011

MAMAP – a new spectrometer system for column-averaged methane and carbon dioxide observations from aircraft: instrument description and performance analysis

K. Gerilowski, A. Tretner, T. Krings, M. Buchwitz, P. P. Bertagnolio, F. Belemezov, J. Erzinger, J. P. Burrows, and H. Bovensmann

Abstract. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) are the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases. CH4 is furthermore one of the most potent present and future contributors to global warming because of its large global warming potential (GWP). Our knowledge of CH4 and CO2 source strengths is based primarily on bottom-up scaling of sparse in-situ local point measurements of emissions and up-scaling of emission factor estimates or top-down modeling incorporating data from surface networks and more recently also by incorporating data from low spatial resolution satellite observations for CH4. There is a need to measure and retrieve the dry columns of CO2 and CH4 having high spatial resolution and spatial coverage. In order to fill this gap a new passive airborne 2-channel grating spectrometer instrument for remote sensing of small scale and mesoscale column-averaged CH4 and CO2 observations has been developed. This Methane Airborne MAPper (MAMAP) instrument measures reflected and scattered solar radiation in the short wave infrared (SWIR) and near-infrared (NIR) parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum at moderate spectral resolution. The SWIR channel yields measurements of atmospheric absorption bands of CH4 and CO2 in the spectral range between 1.59 and 1.69 μm at a spectral resolution of 0.82 nm. The NIR channel around 0.76 μm measures the atmospheric O2-A-band absorption with a resolution of 0.46 nm. MAMAP has been designed for flexible operation aboard a variety of airborne platforms. The instrument design and the performance of the SWIR channel, together with some results from on-ground and in-flight engineering tests are presented. The SWIR channel performance has been analyzed using a retrieval algorithm applied to the nadir measured spectra. Dry air column-averaged mole fractions are obtained from SWIR data only by dividing the retrieved CH4 columns by the simultaneously retrieved CO2 columns for dry air column CH4 (XCH4) and vice versa for dry air column CO2 (XCO2). The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the SWIR channel is approximately 1000 for integration times (tint) in the range of 0.6–0.8 s for scenes with surface spectral reflectances (SSR)/albedo of around 0.18. At these integration times the ground scene size is about 23 × 33 m2 for an aircraft altitude of 1 km and a ground speed of 200 km/h. For these scenes the actual XCH4 or XCO2 dry air column retrieval precisions are typically about 1% (1 σ). Elevated levels of CH4 have been retrieved above a CH4 emitting landfill. Similarly the plume of CO2 from coal-fired power plants can be well detected and tracked. The measurements by the MAMAP sensor could enable estimates of anthropogenic, biogenic and geological emissions of localized intense CH4 and CO2 sources such as anthropogenic fugitive CH4 emissions from oil and gas industry, coal mining, disposal of organic waste, CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, steel production or geologic CH4 and CO2 emissions from seepage and volcanoes. Appropriate analysis of the measurements of MAMAP potentially also yields natural CH4 emissions from less intense but extensive sources such as wetlands.