Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, P.O. Box 330 440, 28334 Bremen, Germany
Abstract. Tropospheric NO2, a key pollutant in particular in cities, has been measured from space since the mid-1990s by the GOME, SCIAMACHY, OMI, and GOME-2 instruments. These data provide a unique global long-term data set of tropospheric pollution. However, the measurements differ in spatial resolution, local time of measurement, and measurement geometry. All these factors can severely impact the retrieved NO2 columns, which is why they need to be taken into account when analysing time series spanning more than one instrument.
In this study, we present several ways to explicitly account for the instrumental differences in trend analyses of the NO2 columns derived from satellite measurements, while preserving their high spatial resolution. Both a physical method, based on spatial averaging of the measured earthshine spectra and extraction of a resolution pattern, and statistical methods, including instrument-dependent offsets in the fitted trend function, are developed. These methods are applied to data from GOME and SCIAMACHY separately, to the combined time series and to an extended data set comprising also GOME-2 and OMI measurements.
All approaches show consistent trends of tropospheric NO2 for a selection of areas on both regional and city scales, for the first time allowing consistent trend analysis of the full time series at high spatial resolution and significantly reducing the uncertainties of the retrieved trend estimates compared to previous studies.
We show that measured tropospheric NO2 columns have been strongly increasing over China, the Middle East, and India, with values over East Central China triplicating from 1996 to 2011. All parts of the developed world, including Western Europe, the United States, and Japan, show significantly decreasing NO2 amounts in the same time period. On a megacity level, individual trends can be as large as +27 ± 3.7% yr−1 and +20 ± 1.9% yr−1 in Dhaka and Baghdad, respectively, while Los Angeles shows a very strong decrease of −6.0 ± 0.37% yr−1. Most megacities in China, India, and the Middle East show increasing NO2 columns of +5–10% yr−1, leading to a doubling to triplication within the observed period. While linear trends derived with the different methods are consistent, comparison of the GOME and SCIAMACHY time series as well as inspection of time series over individual areas shows clear indication of non-linear changes in NO2 columns in response to rapid changes in technology used and the economical situation.