Monday, August 12, 2013

Arctic satellite thermal infrared CH4 data compared to surface in-situ and total column measurements

Leonid Yurganov, Senior Research Scientist,
Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology,
University of Maryland Baltimore County

Below an abstract of a paper written by Leonid Yurganov, Xiaozhen Xiong and Ira Liefer, and submitted for presentation at the AGU-Fall meeting 2013.

ABSTRACT: The trace gas sensitivity of Thermal InfraRed (TIR) sounders (AIRS, IASI, TANSO) is greatest in the middle and upper troposphere; though, lower troposphere (1-2 km of altitude) sensitivity is less but not negligible. As a result, where methane largely is constrained to the lower troposphere, as is common in the Arctic particularly the marine Arctic, retrievals from these instruments provides important synoptic data on high latitude methane sources. Low Arctic water vapor content favors a better sensitivity to methane as well: H2O is the main absorber in the 7.8 micrometers spectral region.

Both AIRS/Aqua v6 (NASA) and IASI/Metop-A (NOAA/NESDIS/CLASS retrievals) methane data averaged over 0-4 km altitude clearly demonstrate increased methane concentrations over the Barents and Norwegian Seas (BNS) with seasonal maximum in December - March. Similar increases are observed over the Kara, Laptev, and Chukchi Seas for September-November, i.e. during the period of minimum ice cover over the Arctic (Figures 1 and 2). Comparison of a long series of AIRS data with in situ methane concentrations at the Zeppelin NILU observatory (Svalbard) show good agreement both in amplitude and phase of seasonal variations. Agreement with Barrow NOAA continuous methane in situ data is much worse, which likely results from lower thermal contrast in winter over the cold and icy surfaces of the Eastern Arctic. Further surface validation is by a comparison of total methane columns with the Sun-Tracking FTIR at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard (TCCON network).

These analyses demonstrate that TIR satellites are capable of detecting Arctic methane enhancements from space, particularly over relatively warm year-round water surfaces such as the BNS. Ongoing research is addressing further verification of retrieved methane columns by collecting data with a cavity ring-down spectroscopy analyzer for methane and carbon dioxide on board of the Russian Research Vessel Akademik Fedorov during the expedition NABOS-2013. Data will be collected to measure marine methane concentrations and vertical fluxes between Norway and the Eastern Arctic (New Siberian Islands) between 20 August and 23 September, 2013.

Figure 1

Figure 2. methane concentrations over the Barents and Norwegian Seas (BNS), over the Kara, Laptev, and East Siberian Seas, and over Eurasia (between 50 and 70 degrees North)

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