Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 743–755, 2014
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 7, 743–755, 2014

Research article 13 Mar 2014

Research article | 13 Mar 2014

Tunable diode laser in-situ CH4 measurements aboard the CARIBIC passenger aircraft: instrument performance assessment

C. Dyroff1, A. Zahn1, S. Sanati1, E. Christner1, A. Rauthe-Schöch2, and T. J. Schuck2,* C. Dyroff et al.
  • 1Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-ASF), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Otto Hahn Institute), Mainz, Germany
  • *now at: NRW State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection, Recklinghausen, Germany

Abstract. A laser spectrometer for automated monthly measurements of methane (CH4) mixing ratios aboard the CARIBIC passenger aircraft is presented. The instrument is based on a commercial Fast Greenhouse Gas Analyser (FGGA, Los Gatos Res.), which was adapted to meet the requirements imposed by unattended airborne operation. It was characterised in the laboratory with respect to instrument stability, precision, cross sensitivity to H2O, and accuracy. For airborne operation, a calibration strategy is described that utilises CH4 measurements obtained from flask samples taken during the same flights. The precision of airborne measurements is 2 ppb for 10 s averages. The accuracy at aircraft cruising altitude is 3.85 ppb. During aircraft ascent and descent, where no flask samples were obtained, instrumental drifts can be less accurately determined and the uncertainty is estimated to be 12.4 ppb. A linear humidity bias correction was applied to the CH4 measurements, which was most important in the lower troposphere. On average, the correction bias was around 6.5 ppb at an altitude of 2 km, and negligible at cruising flight level. Observations from 103 long-distance flights are presented that span a large part of the northern hemispheric upper troposphere and lowermost stratosphere (UT/LMS), with occasional crossing of the tropics on flights to southern Africa. These accurate data mark the largest UT/LMS in-situ CH4 dataset worldwide. An example of a tracer-tracer correlation study with ozone is given, highlighting the possibility for accurate cross-tropopause transport analyses.