Extending methane profiles from aircraft into the stratosphere for satellite total column validation using the ECMWF C-IFS and TOMCAT/SLIMCAT 3-D model
Abstract. Airborne observations of greenhouse gases are a very useful reference for validation of satellite-based column-averaged dry air mole fraction data. However, since the aircraft data are available only up to about 9–13 km altitude, these profiles do not fully represent the depth of the atmosphere observed by satellites and therefore need to be extended synthetically into the stratosphere. In the near future, observations of CO2 and CH4 made from passenger aircraft are expected to be available through the In-Service Aircraft for a Global Observing System (IAGOS) project. In this study, we analyse three different data sources that are available for the stratospheric extension of aircraft profiles by comparing the error introduced by each of them into the total column and provide recommendations regarding the best approach. First, we analyse CH4 fields from two different models of atmospheric composition – the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Integrated Forecasting System for Composition (C-IFS) and the TOMCAT/SLIMCAT 3-D chemical transport model. Secondly, we consider scenarios that simulate the effect of using CH4 climatologies such as those based on balloons or satellite limb soundings. Thirdly, we assess the impact of using a priori profiles used in the satellite retrievals for the stratospheric part of the total column. We find that the models considered in this study have a better estimation of the stratospheric CH4 as compared to the climatology-based data and the satellite a priori profiles. Both the C-IFS and TOMCAT models have a bias of about −9 ppb at the locations where tropospheric vertical profiles will be measured by IAGOS. The C-IFS model, however, has a lower random error (6.5 ppb) than TOMCAT (12.8 ppb). These values are well within the minimum desired accuracy and precision of satellite total column XCH4 retrievals (10 and 34 ppb, respectively). In comparison, the a priori profile from the University of Leicester Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) Proxy XCH4 retrieval and climatology-based data introduce larger random errors in the total column, being limited in spatial coverage and temporal variability. Furthermore, we find that the bias in the models varies with latitude and season. Therefore, applying appropriate bias correction to the model fields before using them for profile extension is expected to further decrease the error contributed by the stratospheric part of the profile to the total column.