Articles | Volume 14, issue 23
Research article
08 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 08 Dec 2014

A regional CO2 observing system simulation experiment for the ASCENDS satellite mission

J. S. Wang, S. R. Kawa, J. Eluszkiewicz, D. F. Baker, M. Mountain, J. Henderson, T. Nehrkorn, and T. S. Zaccheo

Abstract. Top–down estimates of the spatiotemporal variations in emissions and uptake of CO2 will benefit from the increasing measurement density brought by recent and future additions to the suite of in situ and remote CO2 measurement platforms. In particular, the planned NASA Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days, and Seasons (ASCENDS) satellite mission will provide greater coverage in cloudy regions, at high latitudes, and at night than passive satellite systems, as well as high precision and accuracy. In a novel approach to quantifying the ability of satellite column measurements to constrain CO2 fluxes, we use a portable library of footprints (surface influence functions) generated by the Stochastic Time-Inverted Lagrangian Transport (STILT) model in combination with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model in a regional Bayesian synthesis inversion. The regional Lagrangian particle dispersion model framework is well suited to make use of ASCENDS observations to constrain weekly fluxes in North America at a high resolution, in this case at 1° latitude × 1° longitude. We consider random measurement errors only, modeled as a function of the mission and instrument design specifications along with realistic atmospheric and surface conditions. We find that the ASCENDS observations could potentially reduce flux uncertainties substantially at biome and finer scales. At the grid scale and weekly resolution, the largest uncertainty reductions, on the order of 50%, occur where and when there is good coverage by observations with low measurement errors and the a priori uncertainties are large. Uncertainty reductions are smaller for a 1.57 μm candidate wavelength than for a 2.05 μm wavelength, and are smaller for the higher of the two measurement error levels that we consider (1.0 ppm vs. 0.5 ppm clear-sky error at Railroad Valley, Nevada). Uncertainty reductions at the annual biome scale range from ~40% to ~75% across our four instrument design cases and from ~65% to ~85% for the continent as a whole. Tests suggest that the quantitative results are moderately sensitive to assumptions regarding a priori uncertainties and boundary conditions. The a posteriori flux uncertainties we obtain, ranging from 0.01 to 0.06 Pg C yr−1 across the biomes, would meet requirements for improved understanding of long-term carbon sinks suggested by a previous study.

Short summary
Our simulations suggest that CO2 measurements by the planned ASCENDS satellite could improve estimates of emissions and uptake by up to 50% at the weekly 1° by 1° scale, 40-75% at the annual biome scale, and 65-85% for the whole of North America. The results depend on the laser wavelength used and the assumed precision of the measurements. The resulting biome flux uncertainties, 0.01-0.06 billion tons of C per year, would satisfy one definition of mission success.
Final-revised paper