Global distributions of methanol and formic acid retrieved for the first time from the IASI/MetOp thermal infrared sounder
Abstract. Methanol (CH3OH) and formic acid (HCOOH) are among the most abundant volatile organic compounds present in the atmosphere. In this work, we derive the global distributions of these two organic species using for the first time the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) launched onboard the MetOp-A satellite in 2006. This paper describes the method used and provides a first critical analysis of the retrieved products. The retrieval process follows a two-step approach in which global distributions are first obtained on the basis of a simple radiance indexing (transformed into brightness temperatures), and then mapped onto column abundances using suitable conversion factors. For methanol, the factors were calculated using a complete retrieval approach in selected regions. In the case of formic acid, a different approach, which uses a set of forward simulations for representative atmospheres, has been used. In both cases, the main error sources are carefully determined: the average relative error on the column for both species is estimated to be about 50%, increasing to about 100% for the least favorable conditions. The distributions for the year 2009 are discussed in terms of seasonality and source identification. Time series comparing methanol, formic acid and carbon monoxide in different regions are also presented.