28 Mar 2022
28 Mar 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

On the influence of underlying elevation data on Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite methane retrievals over Greenland

Jonas Hachmeister1, Oliver Schneising1, Michael Buchwitz1, Alba Lorente2, Tobias Borsdorff2, John P. Burrows1, Justus Notholt1, and Matthias Buschmann1 Jonas Hachmeister et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP), University of Bremen FB1, Bremen, Germany
  • 2Netherlands Institute for Space Research, SRON, Leiden, the Netherlands

Abstract. The Sentinel-5 Precursor (S5P) mission was launched on October 2017 and has since provided data with high spatio-temporal resolution using its remote sensing instrument, the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI). The latter is a nadir viewing passive grating imaging spectrometer. The mathematical inversion of the TROPOMI data yields retrievals of different trace gas and aerosol data products. The column-averaged dry air mole fraction of methane (XCH4) is the product of interest to this study. The daily global coverage of the atmospheric methane mole fraction data enables the analysis of the methane distribution and variation on large scales and also to estimate surface emissions. The spatio-temporal high-resolution satellite data are potentially particularly valuable in remote regions, such as the Arctic, where few ground stations and in-situ measurements are available. In addition to the operational Copernicus S5P total-column averaged dry air mole fraction methane data product developed by SRON, the scientific TROPOMI/WFMD algorithm data product v1.5 (WFMD product) was generated at the Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Bremen. In this study we focus on the assessment of both S5P XCH4 data products over Greenland and find that spatial maps of both products show distinct features along the coast lines. Anomalies up to and exceeding 100 ppb are observed and stand out in comparison to the otherwise smooth changes in the methane distribution. These features are more pronounced for the operational product compared to the WFMD product. The spatial patterns correlate with the difference of the GMTED2010 digital elevation model (DEM) used in the retrievals to a more recent topography data set indicating that inaccuracies in the assumed surface elevation are the origin of the observed features. These correlations are stronger for the WFMD product. In order to evaluate the impact of the topography dataset on the retrieval we reprocess the WFMD product with updated elevation data. We find a significant reduction of the localized features when GMTED2010 is replaced by recent topography data over Greenland based on ICESat-2 data. This study shows the importance of the chosen topography data on retrieved dry air mole fractions. Use of a precise and up-to-date as possible DEM is advised for all S5P data products as well as for future missions which rely on DEM as input data. A modification based on this study is planned to be introduced to the next version of the WFMD data product.

Jonas Hachmeister et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2022-102', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 May 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2022-102', Anonymous Referee #2, 19 May 2022

Jonas Hachmeister et al.

Jonas Hachmeister et al.


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Short summary
Sentinel-5P trace gas retrievals rely on elevation data in their calculations. Outdated or inaccurate data can lead to significant errors in e.g. dry-air mole fractions of methane (XCH4). We show that the use of inadequate elevation data leads to strong XCH4 anomalies in Greenland. Similar problems can be expected for regions with inaccurate elevation data or where elevation changes occur (e.g. glaciers melting). We show that updating elevation data used in the retrieval solves this issue.