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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  26 Jun 2020

26 Jun 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Autonomous Airborne Mid-IR Spectrometer for High Precision Measurements of Ethane during the NASA ACT-America Studies

Petter Weibring1, Dirk Richter1, James G. Walega1, Alan Fried1, Joshua DiGangi2, Hannah Halliday2, Yonghoon Choi3, Bianca Baier4,5, Colm Sweeney4,5, Ben Miller4,5, Kenneth J. Davis6, Zachary Barkley6, and Michael D. Obland2 Petter Weibring et al.
  • 1Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, USA
  • 3Science Systems and Applications Inc., Hampton, VA, USA
  • 4Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 5NOAA ESRL Global Monitoring Division, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 6Department of Meteorology & Atmospheric Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Abstract. An airborne trace gas sensor based on mid-infrared technology is presented for fast (1-second) and high precision ethane measurements during the Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America (ACT-America) study. The ACT-America campaign is a multi-year effort to better understand and quantify sources and sinks for the two major greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. Simultaneous airborne ethane and methane measurements provide one method by which sources of methane can be identified and quantified. The instrument described herein was operated on NASA's B200 King Air airplane spanning five separate field deployments. As this platform has limited payload capabilities, considerable effort was devoted to minimizing instrument weight and size without sacrificing airborne ethane measurement performance. This paper describes the numerous features designed to achieve these goals. Two of the key instrument features that were realized were autonomous instrument control with no on-board operator and the implementation of direct absorption spectroscopy based on fundamental first principles. We present airborne measurement performance for ethane based upon the precisions of zero air background measurements as well as ambient precision during quiescent stable periods. The airborne performance was improved with each successive deployment phase, and we summarize the major upgraded design features to achieve these improvements. During the 4th deployment phase, in the spring of 2018, the instrument achieved 1-second (1σ) airborne ethane precisions reproducibly in the 30–40 parts-per-trillion by volume (pptv) range in both the boundary layer and the less turbulent free troposphere. This performance is among some of the best reported to date for fast (1 Hz) airborne ethane measurements. In both the laboratory conditions and at times during calm and level airborne operation these precisions were as low as 15–20 pptv.

Petter Weibring et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
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Petter Weibring et al.

Petter Weibring et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The present study describes an autonomously operated airborne instrument for high precision (20–40 parts-per-trillion in 1-second) measurements of ethane during actual airborne operations on a small aircraft platform (NASA's King Air B200). This paper discusses the dynamic nature of airborne performance due to various aircraft-induced perturbations, methods devised to identify such events, as well as solutions we have enacted to circumvent these perturbations.
The present study describes an autonomously operated airborne instrument for high precision...