Articles | Volume 7, issue 7
Research article
22 Jul 2014
Research article |  | 22 Jul 2014

Intercomparison of daytime stratospheric NO2 satellite retrievals and model simulations

M. Belmonte Rivas, P. Veefkind, F. Boersma, P. Levelt, H. Eskes, and J. Gille

Abstract. This paper evaluates the agreement between stratospheric NO2 retrievals from infrared limb sounders (Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) and High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS)) and solar UV/VIS backscatter sensors (Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Cartography (SCIAMACHY) limb and nadir) over the 2005–2007 period and across the seasons. The observational agreement is contrasted with the representation of NO2 profiles in 3-D chemical transport models such as the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) and TM4. A conclusion central to this work is that the definition of a reference for stratospheric NO2 columns formed by consistent agreement among SCIAMACHY, MIPAS and HIRDLS limb records (all of which agree to within 0.25 × 1015 molecules cm−2 or better than 10%) allows us to draw attention to relative errors in other data sets, e.g., (1) WACCM overestimates NO2 densities in the extratropical lower stratosphere, particularly in the springtime and over northern latitudes by up to 35% relative to limb observations, and (2) there are remarkable discrepancies between stratospheric NO2 column estimates from limb and nadir techniques, with a characteristic seasonally and latitudinally dependent pattern. We find that SCIAMACHY nadir and OMI stratospheric columns show overall biases of −0.5 × 1015 molecules cm−2 (−20%) and +0.6 × 1015 molecules cm−2 (+20%) relative to limb observations, respectively. It is argued that additive biases in nadir stratospheric columns are not expected to affect tropospheric retrievals significantly, and that they can be attributed to errors in the total slant column density, related either to algorithmic or instrumental effects. In order to obtain accurate and long-term time series of stratospheric NO2, an effort towards the harmonization of currently used differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS) approaches to nadir retrievals becomes essential, as well as their agreement to limb and ground-based observations, particularly now that limb techniques are giving way to nadir observations as the next generation of climate and air quality monitoring instruments pushes forth.