Articles | Volume 9, issue 11
Research article
18 Nov 2016
Research article |  | 18 Nov 2016

Comparison of two closed-path cavity-based spectrometers for measuring air–water CO2 and CH4 fluxes by eddy covariance

Mingxi Yang, John Prytherch, Elena Kozlova, Margaret J. Yelland, Deepulal Parenkat Mony, and Thomas G. Bell

Abstract. In recent years several commercialised closed-path cavity-based spectroscopic instruments designed for eddy covariance flux measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and water vapour (H2O) have become available. Here we compare the performance of two leading models – the Picarro G2311-f and the Los Gatos Research (LGR) Fast Greenhouse Gas Analyzer (FGGA) at a coastal site. Both instruments can compute dry mixing ratios of CO2 and CH4 based on concurrently measured H2O, temperature, and pressure. Additionally, we used a high throughput Nafion dryer to physically remove H2O from the Picarro airstream. Observed air–sea CO2 and CH4 fluxes from these two analysers, averaging about 12 and 0.12 mmol m−2 day−1 respectively, agree within the measurement uncertainties. For the purpose of quantifying dry CO2 and CH4 fluxes downstream of a long inlet, the numerical H2O corrections appear to be reasonably effective and lead to results that are comparable to physical removal of H2O with a Nafion dryer in the mean. We estimate the high-frequency attenuation of fluxes in our closed-path set-up, which was relatively small ( ≤  10 %) for CO2 and CH4 but very large for the more polar H2O. The Picarro showed significantly lower noise and flux detection limits than the LGR. The hourly flux detection limit for the Picarro was about 2 mmol m−2 day−1 for CO2 and 0.02 mmol m−2 day−1 for CH4. For the LGR these detection limits were about 8 and 0.05 mmol m−2 day−1. Using global maps of monthly mean air–sea CO2 flux as reference, we estimate that the Picarro and LGR can resolve hourly CO2 fluxes from roughly 40 and 4 % of the world's oceans respectively. Averaging over longer timescales would be required in regions with smaller fluxes. Hourly flux detection limits of CH4 from both instruments are generally higher than the expected emissions from the open ocean, though the signal to noise of this measurement may improve closer to the coast.

Short summary
The exchange of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane between the ocean and the atmosphere is of critical importance for the earth's climate. Despite this, direct measurements of these fluxes are relatively scarce, especially for methane, in large part due to instrumental challenges. In this paper, we evaluate the performance of two of the latest carbon dioxide and methane flux analysers. We also compare their detection limits to predicted air–sea fluxes of these gases.