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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-1117
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-1117
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 13 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 13 Jan 2020

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Validation of satellite formaldehyde (HCHO) retrievals using observations from 12 aircraft campaigns

Lei Zhu1,2, Gonzalo González Abad1, Caroline R. Nowlan1, Christopher Chan Miller1, Kelly Chance1, Eric C. Apel3, Joshua P. DiGangi4, Alan Fried5, Thomas F. Hanisco6, Rebecca S. Hornbrook3, Lu Hu7, Jennifer Kaiser8,9, Frank N. Keutsch10,11,12, Wade Permar7, Jason M. St. Clair6,13, and Glenn M. Wolfe6,13 Lei Zhu et al.
  • 1Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 2School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China
  • 3Atmospheric Chemistry Observations & Modeling Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 4NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, USA
  • 5Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 6Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamic Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 7Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA
  • 8School of Civil and Environmental Engineering or Earth, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 9School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • 10John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 11Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 12Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 13Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, 21228, USA

Abstract. Formaldehyde (HCHO) has been measured from space for more than two decades. Owing to its short atmospheric lifetime, satellite HCHO data are used widely as a proxy of volatile organic compounds (VOCs; please refer to Appendix A for abbreviations and acronyms), providing constraints on underlying emissions and chemistry. However, satellite HCHO products from different satellite sensors using different algorithms have received little validation so far. The accuracy and consistency of HCHO retrievals remain largely unclear. Here we develop a global validation platform for satellite HCHO retrievals using in situ observations from 12 aircraft campaigns with a chemical transport model (GEOS-Chem) as the intercomparison method. Application to the NASA operational OMI HCHO product indicates slight biases (−30.9 % to +16.0 %) under high-HCHO conditions partially caused by a priori shape factors used in the retrievals, while high biases (+113.9 % to +194.6 %) under low-HCHO conditions due mainly to slant column fitting and radiance reference sector correction. By providing quick assessment to systematic biases in satellite products over large domains, the platform facilitates, in an iterative process, optimization of retrieval settings and the minimization of retrieval biases. It is also complementary to localized validation efforts based on ground observations and aircraft spirals.

Lei Zhu et al.
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Status: open (until 09 Mar 2020)
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Lei Zhu et al.
Model code and software

The validation platform (R scripts) L. Zhu https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/KG3XNC

Lei Zhu et al.
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Short summary
We develop a global validation platform for satellite HCHO retrievals using in situ observations from 12 aircraft campaigns. The platform offers an alternative way to quickly assess systematic biases in HCHO satellite products over large domains and long periods, facilitating optimization of retrieval settings and the minimization of retrieval biases. Application to the NASA operational HCHO product indicates that relative biases range −30.9 % to +194.6 % depending on locations and seasons.
We develop a global validation platform for satellite HCHO retrievals using in situ observations...
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