1Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
2Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg, Germany
3Institute of Environmental Physics, Bremen, Germany
4Center for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, UK
Abstract. International shipping is recognized as a pollution source of growing importance, in particular in the remote marine boundary layer. Nitrogen dioxide originating from ship emissions has previously been detected in satellite measurements. This study presents the first satellite measurements of formaldehyde (HCHO) linked to shipping emissions as derived from observations made by the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) instrument.
We analyzed enhanced HCHO tropospheric columns from shipping emissions over the Indian Ocean between Sri Lanka and Sumatra. This region offers good conditions in term of plume detection with the GOME instrument as all ship tracks follow a single narrow track in the same east-west direction as used for the GOME pixel scanning. The HCHO signal alone is weak but could be clearly seen in the high-pass filtered data. The line of enhanced HCHO in the Indian Ocean as seen in the 7-year composite of cloud free GOME observations clearly coincides with the distinct ship track corridor from Sri Lanka to Indonesia. The observed mean HCHO column enhancement over this shipping route is about 2.0×1015 molec/cm2.
The observed HCHO pattern also agrees qualitatively well with results from the coupled earth system model ECHAM5/MESSy applied to atmospheric chemistry (EMAC). However, the modelled HCHO values over the ship corridor are two times lower than in the GOME high-pass filtered data. This might indicate that the used emission inventories are too low and/or that the in-plume chemistry taking place in the narrow path of the shipping lanes are not well represented at the rather coarse model resolution.