Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2024-27
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2024-27
26 Feb 2024
 | 26 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

The differences between remote sensing and in situ air pollutants measurements over the Canadian Oil Sands

Xiaoyi Zhao, Vitali Fioletov, Debora Griffin, Chris McLinden, Ralf Staebler, Cristian Mihele, Kevin Strawbridge, Jonathan Davies, Ihab Abboud, Sum Chi Lee, Alexander Cede, Martin Tiefengraber, and Robert Swap

Abstract. Ground-based remote sensing instruments have been widely used for atmospheric research but applications for air quality monitoring remain limited. Compared to an in situ instrument that provides air quality conditions at the ground level, most remote sensing instruments are sensitive to a broad range of altitudes, often providing only integrated column observations. These column data can be more difficult to interpret and to relate to surface values and hence to “nose-height-level” health factors. This research utilized ground-based remote sensing and in situ air quality observations in the Canadian Oil Sands Region to investigate some of their differences.

Vertical column densities (VCDs) of SO2 and NO2 retrieved by Pandora spectrometers located at the Oski-Otin site at Fort McKay, (Alberta, Canada), from 2013–2019 were analyzed along with measurements of SO2 and NO2 surface concentrations and meteorological data. Aerosol optical depth (AOD) observations by CIMEL sunphotometer were compared with surface PM2.5 data. The Oski-Otin site is surrounded by several large bitumen mining operations within the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) with significant NO2 emissions from the mining fleet. Two major bitumen upgraders that are 20 km south-east of the site have total SO2 and NO2 emissions of about 40 kt yr-1 and 20 kt yr-1 respectively. It was demonstrated that remote sensing data from Pandora and CIMEL combined with high vertical resolution wind profiles can provide information about pollution sources and plume characteristics. Elevated SO2 VCDs are clearly observed for times with south and south-eastern winds, particularly at 200–300 m altitude (above ground level). High NO2 VCD values were observed from other directions (e.g., north-west) with less prominent impacts from 200–300 m winds. In situ ground observations of SO2 and NO2 show a different sensitivity with wind profiles, indicating they are less sensitive to elevated plumes than remote sensing instruments. In addition to measured wind data and lidar observed boundary layer height (BLH), modelled wind profiles and BLH from ERA-5 have been used to further examine the correlation between column and surface observations. The results show that the ratio of measured column and surface concentration values could show positive or negative correlation with BLH, which depends on the height of emission sources (e.g., emissions from high stacks or near surface).

This study explores differences between remote sensing and in situ instruments in terms of their vertical, horizontal, and temporal sampling differences. Understanding and resolving these differences are critical for future analyses linking satellite, ground-based remote sensing, and in situ observations in air quality monitoring and research.

Xiaoyi Zhao, Vitali Fioletov, Debora Griffin, Chris McLinden, Ralf Staebler, Cristian Mihele, Kevin Strawbridge, Jonathan Davies, Ihab Abboud, Sum Chi Lee, Alexander Cede, Martin Tiefengraber, and Robert Swap

Status: open (until 20 May 2024)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2024-27', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Mar 2024 reply
Xiaoyi Zhao, Vitali Fioletov, Debora Griffin, Chris McLinden, Ralf Staebler, Cristian Mihele, Kevin Strawbridge, Jonathan Davies, Ihab Abboud, Sum Chi Lee, Alexander Cede, Martin Tiefengraber, and Robert Swap
Xiaoyi Zhao, Vitali Fioletov, Debora Griffin, Chris McLinden, Ralf Staebler, Cristian Mihele, Kevin Strawbridge, Jonathan Davies, Ihab Abboud, Sum Chi Lee, Alexander Cede, Martin Tiefengraber, and Robert Swap

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Short summary
This study explores differences between remote sensing and in situ instruments in terms of their vertical, horizontal, and temporal sampling differences. Understanding and resolving these differences are critical for future analyses linking satellite, ground-based remote sensing, and in situ observations in air quality monitoring. It shows the meteorological conditions (wind directions, speed, and boundary layer conditions) will strongly affect the agreement between the two measurements.