10 Mar 2023
 | 10 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

A blended TROPOMI+GOSAT satellite data product for atmospheric methane using machine learning to correct retrieval biases

Nicholas Balasus, Daniel J. Jacob, Alba Lorente, Joannes D. Maasakkers, Robert J. Parker, Hartmut Boesch, Zichong Chen, Makoto M. Kelp, Hannah Nesser, and Daniel J. Varon

Abstract. Satellite observations of dry column methane mixing ratios (XCH4) from shortwave infrared (SWIR) solar backscatter radiation provide a powerful resource to quantify methane emissions in service of climate action. The TROPOMI instrument launched in October 2017 provides global daily coverage at 5.5 × 7 km2 nadir pixel resolution but its retrievals can suffer from biases associated with SWIR surface albedo, scattering from aerosols and cirrus clouds, and across-track variability (striping). The GOSAT instrument launched in 2009 uses a retrieval method that is less subject to biases, but its data density is 200 times sparser than TROPOMI. Here we present a blended TROPOMI+GOSAT methane product obtained by training a machine learning (ML) model to predict the difference between TROPOMI and GOSAT co-located measurements, using only predictor variables included in the TROPOMI retrieval, and then applying the correction to the complete TROPOMI record from January 2018 to present. We find that the largest corrections are associated with coarse aerosol particles, high SWIR surface albedo, and across-track pixel index. Our blended product corrects a systematic difference between TROPOMI and GOSAT over water, and it features corrections exceeding 10 ppb over arid land, persistently cloudy regions, and high northern latitudes. It reduces the TROPOMI spatially variable bias over land (referenced to GOSAT data) from 14.0 to 10.7 ppb at 0.25° × 0.3125° resolution. Validation with TCCON ground-based column measurements shows reductions in variable bias compared to the original TROPOMI data from 6.0 to 5.2 ppb and in single-retrieval precision from 13.8 to 11.7 ppb. TCCON data are all in locations of SWIR surface albedo below 0.4 (where TROPOMI biases tend to be relatively low), but they confirm the dependence of TROPOMI biases on SWIR surface albedo and coarse aerosol particles, as well as the reduction of these biases in the blended product. Fine-scale inspection of the Arabian Peninsula shows that a number of hotspots in the original TROPOMI data are removed as artifacts in the blended product. The blended product also corrects striping and aerosol/cloud biases in single-orbit TROPOMI data, enabling better detection and quantification of ultra-emitters. Residual coastal biases can be removed by applying additional filters. The ML method presented here can be applied more generally to validate and correct data from any new satellite instrument by reference to a more established instrument.

Nicholas Balasus et al.

Status: open (until 15 Apr 2023)

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Nicholas Balasus et al.

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Nicholas Balasus et al.


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Short summary
We use machine learning to remove biases in TROPOMI satellite observations of atmospheric methane, with GOSAT observations serving as a reference. We find that the TROPOMI biases relative to GOSAT are related to the presence of aerosols and clouds, the surface brightness, and the specific detector that makes the observation onboard TROPOMI. The resulting blended TROPOMI+GOSAT product is more reliable for quantifying methane emissions.