Constraining the hydroxyl (OH) radical in the tropics with satellite...

Anderson, D., B. Duncan, J. Nicely, J. Liu, S. Strode, and M. B. Follette-Cook (2023), Constraining the hydroxyl (OH) radical in the tropics with satellite observations of its drivers – first steps toward assessing the feasibility of a global observation strategy, Atmos. Chem. Phys., doi:10.5194/acp-23-6319-2023.

Despite its importance in controlling the abundance of methane (CH4 ) and a myriad of other tropospheric species, the hydroxyl radical (OH) is poorly constrained due to its large spatial heterogeneity and the inability to measure tropospheric OH with satellites. Here, we present a methodology to infer tropospheric column OH (TCOH) in the tropics over the open oceans using a combination of a machine learning model, output from a simulation of the GEOS model, and satellite observations. Our overall goals are to assess the feasibility of our methodology, to identify potential limitations, and to suggest areas of improvement in the current observational network. The methodology reproduces the variability of TCOH from independent 3D model output and of observations from the Atmospheric Tomography mission (ATom). While the methodology also reproduces the magnitude of the 3D model validation set, the accuracy of the magnitude when applied to observations is uncertain because current observations are insufficient to fully evaluate the machine learning model. Despite large uncertainties in some of the satellite retrievals necessary to infer OH, particularly for NO2 and formaldehyde (HCHO), current satellite observations are of sufficient quality to apply the machine learning methodology, resulting in an error comparable to that of in situ OH observations. Finally, the methodology is not limited to a specific suite of satellite retrievals. Comparison of TCOH determined from two sets of retrievals does show, however, that systematic biases in NO2 , resulting both from retrieval algorithm and instrumental differences, lead to relative biases in the calculated TCOH. Further evaluation of NO2 retrievals in the remote atmosphere is needed to determine their accuracy. With slight modifications, a similar methodology could likely be expanded to the extratropics and over land, with the benefits of increasing our understanding of the atmospheric oxidation capacity and, for instance, informing understanding of recent CH4 trends.

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Atmospheric Composition
Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP)