Abstract. A new method for the determination of the Mixing layer Height (MH) by the DOAS technique is proposed in this article. The MH can be retrieved by a combination of active DOAS and passive DOAS observations of atmospheric trace gases; here we focus on observations of NO2. Because our observations are sensitive to the vertical distribution of trace gases, we refer to the retrieved layer height as an ''effective trace gas mixing height'' (ETMH). By analyzing trace gas observations in Shanghai over one year (1017 hourly means in 93 days in 2007), the retrieved ETMH was found to range between 0.1 km and 2.8 km (average is 0.78 km); more than 90% of the measurements yield an ETMH between 0.2 km and 2.0 km. The seasonal and diurnal variation of the ETMH shows good agreement with mixing layer heights derived from meteorological observations. We investigated the relationship of the derived ETMH to temperature and wind speed and found correlation coefficients of 0.65 and 0.37, respectively. Also the wind direction has an impact on the measurement to some extent. Especially in cases when the air flow comes from highly polluted areas and the atmospheric lifetime of NO2 is long (e.g. in winter), the NO2 concentration at high altitudes over the measurement site can be enhanced, which leads to an overestimation of the ETMH. Enhanced NO2 concentrations in the free atmosphere and heterogeneity within the mixing layer can cause additional uncertainties. Our method could be easily extended to other species like e.g. SO2, HCHO or Glyoxal. Simultaneous studies of these molecules could yield valuable information on their respective atmospheric lifetimes.
How to cite. Zhou, B., Yang, S. N., Wang, S. S., and Wagner, T.: Determination of an effective trace gas mixing height by differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS), Atmos. Meas. Tech. Discuss., 2, 1663–1692, https://doi.org/10.5194/amtd-2-1663-2009, 2009.