Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 2233–2250, 2015
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 2233–2250, 2015

Research article 01 Jun 2015

Research article | 01 Jun 2015

Continuous measurements of greenhouse gases and atmospheric oxygen at the Namib Desert Atmospheric Observatory

E. J. Morgan1, J. V. Lavrič1, T. Seifert1, T. Chicoine2, A. Day2, J. Gomez2, R. Logan2, J. Sack2, T. Shuuya2, E. G. Uushona2, K. Vincent2, U. Schultz1, E.-G. Brunke3, C. Labuschagne3, R. L. Thompson1,*, S. Schmidt1, A. C. Manning1,**, and M. Heimann1 E. J. Morgan et al.
  • 1Department of Biogeochemical Systems, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
  • 2Gobabeb Research and Training Centre, Gobabeb, Namibia
  • 3South African Weather Service, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • *now at: Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway
  • **now at: Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Abstract. A new coastal background site has been established for observations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the central Namib Desert at Gobabeb, Namibia. The location of the site was chosen to provide observations for a data-poor region in the global sampling network for GHGs. Semi-automated continuous measurements of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, atmospheric oxygen, and basic meteorology are made at a height of 21 m a.g.l., 50 km from the coast at the northern border of the Namib Sand Sea. Atmospheric oxygen is measured with a differential fuel cell analyzer (DFCA). Carbon dioxide and methane are measured with an early-model cavity ring-down spectrometer (CRDS); nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide are measured with an off-axis integrated cavity output spectrometer (OA-ICOS). Instrument-specific water corrections are employed for both the CRDS and OA-ICOS instruments in lieu of drying. The performance and measurement uncertainties are discussed in detail. As the station is located in a remote desert environment, there are some particular challenges, namely fine dust, high diurnal temperature variability, and minimal infrastructure. The gas handling system and calibration scheme were tailored to best fit the conditions of the site. The CRDS and DFCA provide data of acceptable quality when base requirements for operation are met, specifically adequate temperature control in the laboratory and regular supply of electricity. In the case of the OA-ICOS instrument, performance is significantly improved through the implementation of a drift correction through frequent measurements of a reference cylinder.

Short summary
We describe the analytical techniques used in the creation of a new background site for continuous measurements of greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide, and atmospheric oxygen in the Namib Desert. The measurement system is semi-automated and optimized for operation in a remote locale. Measurement uncertainties, gas handling, calibration schemes, drift corrections, and instrument performance are discussed.