Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Research article
27 Apr 2012
Research article |  | 27 Apr 2012

Validation of routine continuous airborne CO2 observations near the Bialystok Tall Tower

H. Chen, J. Winderlich, C. Gerbig, K. Katrynski, A. Jordan, and M. Heimann

Abstract. Since 2002 in situ airborne measurements of atmospheric CO2 mixing ratios have been performed regularly aboard a rental aircraft near Bialystok (53°08´ N, 23°09´ E), a city in northeastern Poland. Since August 2008, the in situ CO2 measurements have been made by a modified commercially available and fully automated non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) analyzer system. The response of the analyzer has been characterized and the CO2 mixing ratio stability of the associated calibration system has been fully tested, which results in an optimal calibration strategy and allows for an accuracy of the CO2 measurements within 0.2 ppm. Besides the in situ measurements, air samples have been collected in glass flasks and analyzed in the laboratory for CO2 and other trace gases. To validate the in situ CO2 measurements against reliable discrete flask measurements, we developed weighting functions that mimic the temporal averaging of the flask sampling process. Comparisons between in situ and flask CO2 measurements demonstrate that these weighting functions can compensate for atmospheric variability, and provide an effective method for validating airborne in situ CO2 measurements. In addition, we show the nine-year records of flask CO2 measurements. The new system, automated since August 2008, has eliminated the need for manual in-flight calibrations, and thus enables an additional vertical profile, 20 km away, to be sampled at no additional cost in terms of flight hours. This sampling strategy provides an opportunity to investigate both temporal and spatial variability on a regular basis.