Background nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ) over the United States and its implications...

Dang, R., D. J. Jacob, V. Shah, S. Eastham, T. M. Fritz, L. J. Mickley, T. Liu, Y. Wang, and J. Wang (2023), Background nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ) over the United States and its implications for satellite observations and trends: effects of nitrate photolysis, aircraft, and open fires, Atmos. Chem. Phys., doi:10.5194/acp-23-6271-2023.

Tropospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ) measured from satellites has been widely used to track anthropogenic NOx emissions, but its retrieval and interpretation can be complicated by the free tropospheric NO2 background to which satellite measurements are particularly sensitive. Tropospheric NO2 vertical column densities (VCDs) from the spaceborne Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) averaged over the contiguous US (CONUS) show no trend after 2009, despite sustained decreases in anthropogenic NOx emissions, implying an important and rising contribution from the free tropospheric background. Here, we use the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model applied to the simulation of OMI NO2 to better understand the sources and trends of background NO2 over CONUS. The previous model underestimate of the background is largely corrected by the consideration of aerosol nitrate photolysis, which increases the model NO2 VCDs by 13 % on an annual basis (25 % in spring) and also increases the air mass factor (AMF) to convert the tropospheric slant column densities (SCDs) inferred from the OMI spectra into VCDs by 7 % on an annual basis (11 % in spring). The increase in the AMF decreases the retrieved NO2 VCDs in the satellite observations, contributing to the improved agreement with the model. Accounting for the 2009–2017 increase in aircraft NOx emissions drives only a 1.4 % mean increase in NO2 VCDs over CONUS and a 2 % increase in the AMF, but the combination of decreasing surface NOx emissions and increasing aircraft emissions is expected to drive a 14 % increase in the AMF over the next decade that will be necessary to account for in the interpretation of satellite NO2 trends. Fire smoke identification with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hazard Mapping System (HMS) indicates that wildfires contribute 1 %–8 % of OMI NO2 VCDs over the western US in June–September and that this contribution has been increasing since 2009, contributing to the flattening of OMI NO2 trends. Future analyses of

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Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Aura Science Team