Development and characterisation of a state-of-the-art GOME-2 formaldehyde air-mass factor algorithm
Abstract. Space-borne observations of formaldehyde (HCHO) are frequently used to derive surface emissions of isoprene, an important biogenic volatile organic compound. The conversion of retrieved HCHO slant column concentrations from satellite line-of-sight measurements to vertical columns is determined through application of an air mass factor (AMF), accounting for instrument viewing geometry, radiative transfer, and vertical profile of the absorber in the atmosphere. This step in the trace gas retrieval is subject to large errors. This work presents the AMF algorithm in use at the University of Leicester (UoL), which introduces scene-specific variables into a per-observation full radiative transfer AMF calculation, including increasing spatial resolution of key environmental parameter databases, input variable area weighting, instrument-specific scattering weight calculation, and inclusion of an ozone vertical profile climatology. Application of these updates to HCHO slant columns from the GOME-2 instrument is shown to typically adjust the AMF by ±20 %, compared to a reference algorithm without these advanced parameterisations. On average the GOME-2 AMFs increase by 4 %, with over 70 % of locations having an AMF of 0–20 % larger than originally, largely resulting from the use of the latest GOME-2 reflectance product. Furthermore, the new UoL algorithm also incorporates a full radiative transfer error calculation for each scene to help characterise AMF uncertainties. Global median AMF errors are typically 50–60 %, and are driven by uncertainties in the HCHO profile shape and its vertical distribution relative to clouds and aerosols. If uncertainty on the a priori HCHO profile is relatively small (< 10 %) then the median AMF total error decreases to about 30–40 %.