Articles | Volume 4, issue 11
Research article
24 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 24 Nov 2011

Onboard measurement system of atmospheric carbon monoxide in the Pacific by voluntary observing ships

H. Nara, H. Tanimoto, Y. Nojiri, H. Mukai, T. Machida, and Y. Tohjima

Abstract. Long-term monitoring of carbon monoxide (CO) mixing ratios in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean is being carried out on commercial cargo vessels participating in the National Institute for Environmental Studies Voluntary Observing Ships program. The program provides a regular platform for measurement of atmospheric CO along four cruise routes: from Japan to Oceania, the United States, Canada, and Southeast Asia. Flask samples are collected during every cruise for subsequent analysis in the laboratory, and in 2005, continuous shipboard CO measurements were initiated on three of the routes. Here, we describe the system we developed for onboard measurement of CO mixing ratios with a commercially available gas filter correlation CO analyzer. The fully automated system measures CO in ambient air, and the detector sensitivity and background signals are calibrated by referencing the measurements to a CO-in-air standard gas (~1 ppmv) and to CO-free air scrubbed with a catalyst, respectively. We examined the artificial production of CO in the high-pressure working gas standards during storage by referencing the measurements to CO standard gases maintained as our primary scale before and after use on the ships. The onboard performance of the continuous CO measurement system was evaluated by comparing its data with data from laboratory analyses of flask samples using gas chromatography with a reduction gas detector. The reasonably good consistency between the two independent measurement methods demonstrated the good performance of both methods over the course of 3–5 years. The continuous measurement system was more useful than the flask sampling method for regionally polluted air masses, which were often encountered on Southeast Asian cruises.