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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 7, issue 12
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 4401–4416, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 4401–4416, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 12 Dec 2014

Research article | 12 Dec 2014

Atmospheric composition and thermodynamic retrievals from the ARIES airborne TIR-FTS system – Part 2: Validation and results from aircraft campaigns

G. Allen1, S. M. Illingworth1, S. J. O'Shea1, S. Newman2, A. Vance2, S. J.-B. Bauguitte3, F. Marenco2, J. Kent2, K. Bower1, M. W. Gallagher1, J. Muller1, C. J. Percival1, C. Harlow2, J. Lee4, and J. P. Taylor2 G. Allen et al.
  • 1Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
  • 2Met Office, Fitzroy Road, Exeter, EX1 3PB, UK
  • 3Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements, Cranfield, UK
  • 4Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of York, York, UK

Abstract. This study validates trace gas and thermodynamic retrievals from nadir infrared spectroscopic measurements recorded by the UK Met Office Airborne Research Interferometer Evaluation System (ARIES) – a thermal infrared, Fourier transform spectrometer (TIR-FTS) on the UK Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) BAe-146 aircraft.

Trace-gas-concentration and thermodynamic profiles have been retrieved and validated for this study throughout the troposphere and planetary boundary layer (PBL) over a range of environmental variability using data from aircraft campaigns over and around London, the US Gulf Coast, and the Arctic Circle during the Clear air for London (ClearfLo), Joint Airborne IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) Validation Experiment (JAIVEx), and Measurements, process studies, and Modelling (MAMM) aircraft campaigns, respectively. Vertically resolved retrievals of temperature and water vapour (H2O), and partial-column retrievals of methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) (over both land and sea) were compared to corresponding measurements from high-precision in situ analysers and dropsondes operated on the FAAM aircraft. Average degrees of freedom for signal (DOFS) over a 0–9 km column range were found to be 4.97, 3.11, 0.91, 1.10, and 1.62 for temperature, H2O, CH4, CO, and O3, respectively, when retrieved on 10 vertical levels. Partial-column mean biases (and bias standard error) between the surface and ~ 9 km, when averaged across all flight campaigns, were found to be −0.7(±0.3) K, −479(±56) ppm, −11(±2) ppb, −3.3(±1.0) ppb, and +3.5(±1.0) ppb, respectively, whilst the typical a posteriori (total) uncertainties for individually retrieved profiles were 0.4, 9.5, 5.0, 21.2, and 15.0 %, respectively.

Averaging kernels (AKs) derived for progressively lower altitudes show improving sensitivity to lower atmospheric layers when flying at lower altitudes. Temperature and H2O display significant vertically resolved sensitivity throughout the column, whilst trace gases are usefully retrieved only as partial-column quantities, with maximal sensitivity for trace gases other than H2O within a layer 1 and 2 km below the aircraft. This study demonstrates the valuable atmospheric composition information content that can be obtained by ARIES nadir TIR remote sensing for atmospheric process studies.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This paper presents a validated method and data set for new retrievals of trace gas concentrations and temperature from the ARIES infrared spectrometer instrument on the UK Atmospheric Research Aircraft ( This new capability for the aircraft will allow new science to be done because of the way it can sense information about the atmosphere without having to physically pass through it (remote sensing). This will allow us to better understand the make-up of the lower atmosphere.
This paper presents a validated method and data set for new retrievals of trace gas...