Articles | Volume 6, issue 10
Research article
31 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 31 Oct 2013

Comparison of tropospheric NO2 vertical columns in an urban environment using satellite, multi-axis differential optical absorption spectroscopy, and in situ measurements

D. Mendolia, R. J. C. D'Souza, G. J. Evans, and J. Brook

Abstract. Tropospheric NO2 vertical column densities have been retrieved and compared for the first time in Toronto, Canada, using three methods of differing spatial scales. Remotely sensed NO2 vertical column densities, retrieved from multi-axis differential optical absorption spectroscopy and satellite remote sensing, were evaluated by comparison with in situ vertical column densities estimated using a pair of chemiluminescence monitors situated 0.01 and 0.5 km a.g.l. (above ground level). The chemiluminescence measurements were corrected for the influence of NOz, which reduced the NO2 concentrations at 0.01 and 0.5 km by an average of 8 ± 1% and 12 ± 1%, respectively. The average absolute decrease in the chemiluminescence NO2 measurement as a result of this correction was less than 1 ppb. The monthly averaged ratio of the NO2 concentration at 0.5 to 0.01 km varied seasonally, and exhibited a negative linear dependence on the monthly average temperature, with Pearson's R = 0.83. During the coldest month, February, this ratio was 0.52 ± 0.04, while during the warmest month, July, this ratio was 0.34 ± 0.04, illustrating that NO2 is not well mixed within 0.5 km above ground level. Good correlation was observed between the remotely sensed and in situ NO2 vertical column densities (Pearson's R value ranging from 0.72 to 0.81), but the in situ vertical column densities were 52 to 58% greater than the remotely sensed columns. These results indicate that NO2 horizontal heterogeneity strongly impacted the magnitude of the remotely sensed columns. The in situ columns reflected an urban environment with major traffic sources, while the remotely sensed NO2 vertical column densities were representative of the region, which included spatial heterogeneity introduced by residential neighbourhoods and Lake Ontario. Despite the difference in absolute values, the reasonable correlation between the vertical column densities determined by three distinct methods increased confidence in the validity of the values provided by each measurement technique.