Articles | Volume 7, issue 12
Research article
03 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 03 Dec 2014

Multistation intercomparison of column-averaged methane from NDACC and TCCON: impact of dynamical variability

A. Ostler, R. Sussmann, M. Rettinger, N. M. Deutscher, S. Dohe, F. Hase, N. Jones, M. Palm, and B.-M. Sinnhuber

Abstract. Dry-air column-averaged mole fractions of methane (XCH4) retrieved from ground-based solar Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) measurements provide valuable information for satellite validation, evaluation of chemical-transport models, and source-sink-inversions. In this context, Sussmann et al. (2013) have shown that midinfrared (MIR) soundings from the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC) can be combined with near-infrared (NIR) soundings from the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) without the need to apply an overall intercalibration factor. However, in spite of efforts to reduce a priori impact, some residual seasonal biases were identified, and the reasons behind remained unclear. In extension to this previous work, which was based on multiannual quasi-coincident MIR and NIR measurements from the stations Garmisch (47.48° N, 11.06° E, 743 m a.s.l.) and Wollongong (34.41° S, 150.88° E, 30 m a.s.l.), we now investigate upgraded retrievals with longer temporal coverage and include three additional stations (Ny-Ålesund, 78.92° N, 11.93° E, 20 m a.s.l.; Karlsruhe, 49.08° N, 8.43° E, 110 m a.s.l.; Izaña, 28.31° N, 16.45° W, 2.370 m a.s.l.). Our intercomparison results (except for Ny-Ålesund) confirm that there is no overall bias between MIR and NIR XCH4 retrievals, and all MIR and NIR time series reveal a quasi-periodic seasonal bias for all stations, except for Izaña.

We find that dynamical variability causes MIR–NIR differences of up to ~ 30 ppb (parts per billion) for Ny-Ålesund, ~ 20 ppb for Wollongong, ~ 18 ppb for Garmisch, and ~ 12 ppb for Karlsruhe. The mechanisms behind this variability are elaborated via two case studies, one dealing with stratospheric subsidence induced by the polar vortex at Ny-Ålesund and the other with a deep stratospheric intrusion event at Garmisch. Smoothing effects caused by the dynamical variability during these events are different for MIR and NIR retrievals depending on the altitude of the perturbation area. MIR retrievals appear to be more realistic in the case of stratospheric subsidence, while NIR retrievals are more accurate in the case of stratosphere–troposphere exchange (STE) in the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UTLS) region. About 35% of the FTIR measurement days at Garmisch are impacted by STE, and about 23% of the measurement days at Ny-Ålesund are influenced by polar vortex subsidence. The exclusion of data affected by these dynamical situations resulted in improved agreement of MIR and NIR seasonal cycles for Ny-Ålesund and Garmisch.

We found that dynamical variability is a key factor in constraining the accuracy of MIR and NIR seasonal cycles. To mitigate this impact it is necessary to use more realistic a priori profiles that take these dynamical events into account (e.g., via improved models), and/or to improve the FTIR retrievals to achieve a more uniform sensitivity at all altitudes (possibly including profile retrievals for the TCCON data).

Short summary
Ground-based FTIR soundings of column-average methane from NDACC and TCCON can be combined without the need to apply an overall calibration factor. NDACC and TCCON measurements complement one another and provide valuable information for satellite validation, evaluation of chemical-transport models, and source-sink inversions. The impact of dynamical variability on NDACC and TCCON retrievals of column-average methane is reflected in different smoothing effects.