Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
Research article
30 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 30 Jan 2013

MAX-DOAS observations of the total atmospheric water vapour column and comparison with independent observations

T. Wagner, M. O. Andreae, S. Beirle, S. Dörner, K. Mies, and R. Shaiganfar

Abstract. We developed an algorithm for the retrieval of the atmospheric water vapour column from Multi-AXis Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (MAX-DOAS) observations in the yellow and red spectral range. The retrieval is based on the so-called geometric approximation and does not depend on explicit a priori information for individual observations, extensive radiative transfer simulations, or the construction of large look-up tables. Disturbances of the radiative transfer due to aerosols and clouds are simply corrected using the simultaneously measured absorptions of the oxygen dimer, O4. We applied our algorithm to MAX-DOAS observations made at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, from March to August 2011, and compared the results to independent observations. Good agreement with Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) H2O vertical column densities (VCDs) is found, while the agreement with satellite observations is less good, most probably caused by the shielding effect of clouds for the satellite observations. Good agreement is also found with near-surface in situ observations, and it was possible to derive average daily H2O scale heights (between 1.5 km and 3 km). MAX-DOAS measurements use cheap and simple instrumentation and can be run automatically. One important advantage of our algorithm is that the H2O VCD can be retrieved even under cloudy conditions (except clouds with very high optical thickness).