Evaluation of single-footprint AIRS CH4 profile retrieval uncertainties using...

Kulawik, S., J. Worden, V. Payne, D. Fu, S. C. Wofsy, K. McKain, C. Sweeney, B. Daube, A. E. Lipton, I. Polonsky, Y. He, K. Cady-Pereira, E. J. Dlugokencky, D. J. Jacob, and Y. Yin (2021), Evaluation of single-footprint AIRS CH4 profile retrieval uncertainties using aircraft profile measurements, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 14, 335-354, doi:10.5194/amt-14-335-2021.

We evaluate the uncertainties of methane optimal estimation retrievals from single-footprint thermal infrared observations from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS). These retrievals are primarily sensitive to atmospheric methane in the mid-troposphere through the lower stratosphere (∼ 2 to ∼ 17 km). We compare them to in situ observations made from aircraft during the HIAPER Pole to Pole Observations (HIPPO) and Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) campaigns, and from the NOAA GML aircraft network, between the surface and 5–13 km, across a range of years, latitudes between 60◦ S to 80◦ N, and over land and ocean. After a global, pressure-dependent bias correction, we find that the land and ocean have similar biases and that the reported observation error (combined measurement and interference errors) of ∼ 27 ppb is consistent with the SD between aircraft and individual AIRS observations. A single observation has measurement (noise related) uncertainty of ∼ 17 ppb, a ∼ 20 ppb uncertainty from radiative interferences (e.g., from water or temperature), and ∼ 30 ppb due to “smoothing error”, which is partially removed when making comparisons to in situ measurements or models in a way that accounts for this regularization. We estimate a 10 ppb validation uncertainty because the aircraft typically did not measure methane at altitudes where the AIRS measurements have some sensitivity, e.g., the stratosphere, and there is uncertainty in the truth that we validate against. Daily averaging only partly reduces the difference between aircraft and satellite observation, likely because of correlated errors introduced into the retrieval from temperature and water vapor. For example, averaging nine observations only reduces the aircraft–model difference to ∼ 17 ppb vs. the expected ∼ 10 ppb. Seasonal averages can reduce this ∼ 17 ppb uncertainty further to ∼ 10 ppb, as determined through comparison with NOAA aircraft, likely because uncertainties related to radiative effects of temperature and water vapor are reduced when averaged over a season.

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Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP)