Pointing errors in solar absorption spectrometry – correction scheme and its validation
Abstract. A method for quantification of sun-pointing inaccuracies in solar absorption spectrometry is presented along with a correction scheme for the resulting errors in trace gas vertical column or profile retrievals. A posteriori correction of pointing errors requires knowledge of both coordinates of the mispointing vector on the solar disk. In principle, quantitative information on the mispointing can be retrieved from Doppler shifts of solar lines derived from measured spectra. However, this yields only one component of the mispointing vector, namely the one which is perpendicular to the solar rotation axis. Missing information on the second vector component has hindered a posteriori correction of mispointing errors so far. Our idea of how to overcome this problem is to obtain estimates of both coordinates of the mispointing by combining subsequent measurements with differing orientations of the solar rotation axis relative to the zenith direction. The proposed concept is suitable in the case of systematic mispointing, i.e., if the mispointing is approximately constant within a given set of measurements. An implementation of this original concept is demonstrated using measurements from the solar absorption Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer at the Zugspitze (47.42° N, 10.98° E, 2964 m a.s.l.). Soundings in the September 2012–September 2014 time interval were impacted by mispointing problems due to a non-optimum solar tracking optics configuration. They show a mean mispointing in the zenith direction of −0.063°. This causes biases in vertical soundings of trace gases, e.g., −2.82 ppb in monthly means of dry-air column-averaged mole fractions of methane (XCH4). Measurements made with the more stable pre-September 2012 and post-September 2014 optics configurations show considerably smaller mispointing effects. Applying the mispointing correction, the April 2006–March 2014 XCH4 trend determined from Zugspitze measurements is reduced from 6.45 [5.84, 7.04] to 6.07 [5.55, 6.59] ppb yr−1. The correction thereby restores consistency with results from the nearby Garmisch FTIR site (47.48° N, 11.06° E, 743 m a.s.l.). The mispointing correction is applicable to solar absorption measurements in the mid-infrared and near infrared. It will be of particular benefit for refining existing records of high-accuracy-and-precision greenhouse gas soundings for the purpose of improved trend analysis or source–sink inversions.