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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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ACP | Articles | Volume 20, issue 11
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 6631–6650, 2020
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-6631-2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 6631–6650, 2020
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-6631-2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Jun 2020

Research article | 05 Jun 2020

Inverse modeling of SO2 and NOx emissions over China using multisensor satellite data – Part 1: Formulation and sensitivity analysis

Inverse modeling of SO2 and NOx emissions over China using multisensor satellite data – Part 1: Formulation and sensitivity analysis
Yi Wang1, Jun Wang1,2, Xiaoguang Xu2,3, Daven K. Henze4, Zhen Qu4, and Kai Yang5 Yi Wang et al.
  • 1Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Informatics, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
  • 2Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
  • 3Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology and Department of Physics, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland, MD 21250, USA
  • 4Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 5Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Correspondence: Jun Wang (jun-wang-1@uiowa.edu) and Yi Wang (yi-wang-4@uiowa.edu)

Abstract
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SO2 and NO2 observations from the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) sensor are used for the first time in conjunction with the GEOS-Chem adjoint model to optimize both SO2 and NOx emission estimates over China for October 2013. Separate and joint (simultaneous) optimizations of SO2 and NO2 emissions are both conducted and compared. Posterior emissions, compared to the prior, yield improvements in simulating columnar SO2 and NO2, in comparison to measurements from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and OMPS. The posterior SO2 and NOx emissions from separate inversions are 748 Gg S and 672 Gg N, which are 36 % and 6 % smaller than prior MIX emissions (valid for 2010), respectively. In spite of the large reduction of SO2 emissions over the North China Plain, the simulated sulfate–nitrate–ammonium aerosol optical depth (AOD) only decrease slightly, which can be attributed to (a) nitrate rather than sulfate as the dominant contributor to AOD and (b) replacement of ammonium sulfate with ammonium nitrate as SO2 emissions are reduced. For joint inversions, both data quality control and the weight given to SO2 relative to NO2 observations can affect the spatial distributions of the posterior emissions. When the latter is properly balanced, the posterior emissions from assimilating OMPS SO2 and NO2 jointly yield a difference of −3 % to 15 % with respect to the separate assimilations for total anthropogenic SO2 emissions and ±2 % for total anthropogenic NOx emissions; but the differences can be up to 100 % for SO2 and 40 % for NO2 in some grid cells. Improvements on SO2 and NO2 simulations from the joint inversions are overall consistent with those from separate inversions. Moreover, the joint assimilations save  50 % of the computational time compared to assimilating SO2 and NO2 separately in a sequential manner of computation. The sensitivity analysis shows that a perturbation of NH3 to 50 % (20 %) of the prior emission inventory can (a) have a negligible impact on the separate SO2 inversion but can lead to a decrease in posterior SO2 emissions over China by −2.4 % (−7.0 %) in total and up to −9.0 % (−27.7 %) in some grid cells in the joint inversion with NO2 and (b) yield posterior NOx emission decreases over China by −0.7 % (−2.8 %) for the separate NO2 inversion and by −2.7 % (−5.3 %) in total and up to −15.2 % (−29.4 %) in some grid cells for the joint inversion. The large reduction of SO2 between 2010 and 2013, however, only leads to  10 % decrease in AOD regionally; reducing surface aerosol concentration requires the reduction of emissions of NH3 as well.

1 Introduction
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Both SO2 and NO2 in the atmosphere have adverse impacts on human health and can affect radiative forcing that leads to climate change. Not only do they cause inflammation and irritation of humans' respiratory system, but they also react with other species to form sulfate and nitrate aerosols (Seinfeld and Pandis, 2016), which subsequently can lead to or exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases (Lim et al., 2012). Sulfate and nitrate account for the largest mass of anthropogenic aerosols, which contributed to  3 million premature deaths worldwide in 2010 (Lelieveld et al., 2015). In addition to the health impacts, anthropogenic sulfate and nitrate particles are estimated to have caused −0.4 and −0.15 W m−2 radiative forcing, respectively, on a global scale between 1750 and 2011 through the scattering of solar radiation and the modification of cloud microphysical properties (Myhre et al., 2013).

Satellite-derived global distributions of SO2 and NO2 vertical column densities (VCDs) have been used to study the aforementioned impacts of SO2 and NO2 on atmospheric composition, climate change, and human health. In particular, since SO2 and NO2 VCDs are, to a first order, linearly related to SO2 and NOx emissions (Calkins et al., 2016), they can be used to update bottom-up emission inventories that have large uncertainties and a temporal lag often of at least 1 year (Liu et al., 2018). Of particular interest for this study is China, which has large SO2 and NOx emissions from anthropogenic sources (coal-fired power plants, industry, transportation, and residential activity). Moreover, China has seen a 62 % reduction in anthropogenic SO2 emissions and a 17 % reduction of anthropogenic NOx emissions on average from 2010 to 2017 (Zheng et al., 2018) due to the implementation of emission control policies, and these changes vary by regions, cities (Liu et al., 2016), and sectoral sources (Zheng et al., 2018). The reduction of SO2 emissions mainly occurred in the coal-fired power plants and industries, while the decrease in NOx emissions was largely ascribed to coal-fired power plants (Zheng et al., 2018). Noticeable uncertainties larger than 30 % for both anthropogenic SO2 and NOx in 2010 over China were documented (Li et al., 2017b) and can be larger at the regional scale due to the uncertainty of activity rates, emission factors, and spatial proxies, which are used in the bottom-up approach (Janssens-Maenhout et al., 2015). The uncertainty is large and can be compounded by possible discrepancies caused by the temporal lag of bottom-up emission inventories and the rapid changes in emissions over time.

Several methods have been developed to update SO2 and NOx emissions using satellite VCD retrievals of SO2 and NO2, which have global coverage and allow near-real-time access. The mass balance method, which scales prior emissions by the ratios of observed VCDs to chemistry transport model (CTM) counterparts, was applied to SO2 retrievals from the SCanning Imaging Absorption spectroMeter for Atmospheric CHartographY (SCIAMACHY) and Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) (Lee et al., 2011; Koukouli et al., 2018) and to NO2 from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) and OMI (Martin et al., 2003; Lamsal et al., 2010) to estimate SO2 and NOx emissions, respectively. Lamsal et al. (2011) simulated the sensitivity of VCDs to emissions (the finite-difference mass balance approach) using a CTM, which was applied to OMI NO2 retrievals to estimate NOx emissions. SO2 VCD retrievals from GOME, GOME-2, SCIAMACHY, and the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) were used to estimate point sources through linear regression between VCDs and emissions or function fitting, although the method can only detect about half of the total anthropogenic SO2 emissions (Li et al., 2017a; Zhang et al., 2017; Fioletov et al., 2013, 2016). With explicit considerations of chemistry, transport, and deposition, the four-dimension variational data assimilation (4D-Var) approach was applied to estimate emissions using SO2 data from OMI (Wang et al., 2016; Qu et al., 2019a) and NO2 data from SCIAMACHY, GOME-2, and OMI (Kurokawa et al., 2009; Qu et al., 2017; Kong et al., 2019). The 4D-Var posterior has a smaller root mean square error than the mass balance posterior, especially in the conditions when the initial guess and true emissions have different spatial patterns (Qu et al., 2017); this is because the spatial extent of source influences on modeled column concentrations (Turner et al., 2012) is only indirectly and partially accounted for in the mass balance approach. Cooper et al. (2017), however, showed that the iterative finite-difference mass balance approach has a similar normalized mean error value to the 4D-Var approach for global-scale models with coarse resolution when synthetic NO2 columns observations are used to constrain NOx emissions. To combine the strengths of the 4D-Var and mass balance approaches, Qu et al. (2017) further introduced a hybrid 4D-Var-mass-balance approach, which can better capture trends and spatial variability of NOx emissions than the mass balance approach and save significant computational resources when applied to constrain monthly NOx emissions for multiple years. Other data assimilation approaches including the ensemble Kalman filter method (Miyazaki et al., 2012, 2017) and the Daily Emission estimates Constrained by Satellite Observation (DECSO) algorithm (Mijling and van der A, 2012; Ding et al., 2015) have also been used to constrain NOx emissions.

Here, we focus on the development and feasibility for joint 4D-Var assimilation of satellite-based SO2 and NO2 data to optimize SO2 and NOx emission strengths simultaneously. Specifically, this study aims to conduct 4D-Var assimilation of VCDs of SO2 and NO2 from OMPS to constrain SO2 and NOx emissions over China using the GEOS-Chem 4D-Var inverse modeling framework. In our companion study (Wang et al., 2020), we develop approaches to downscaling the optimized emission inventories for improving air quality predictions. Despite their numerous applications for top-down estimates of SO2 and NOx emissions in the past two decades, GOME and SCIAMACHY stopped providing data in 2004 and 2012, respectively, while OMI has been suffering from a row anomaly that leads to much less spatial coverage and larger data uncertainty (Schenkeveld et al., 2017). Hence, it is important to study the potential of next-generation sensors such as OMPS toward continuously monitoring the change in SO2 and NOx emissions and their atmospheric loadings. Two OMPS sensors on board the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) and NOAA-20 were launched in 2011 and 2018, respectively, and the third one is expected to be launched in 2020. As OMPS will continue to provide SO2 and NO2 retrievals in the next two decades, this study, for the first time, seeks to provide a critical assessment of the extent to which the OMPS observations improve emission estimates and air quality forecast at the regional scale.

The novelty of this study lies not only in the first application of OMPS SO2 and NO2 retrievals to constrain emissions using the 4D-Var technique but also in the deployment of OMI data to assess the GEOS-Chem simulation with posterior emissions, thereby studying the degree to which OMPS and OMI retrievals, despite their difference in sensor characteristics and inversion techniques, can provide consistent constraints for the model improvement. Qu et al. (2019a) showed that posterior SO2 emissions derived from different OMI SO2 products vary in strength and have consistent trend signs. Our study here using OMPS thus examines an important issue, which is whether or not there would be any artificial trends in our climate data record of atmospheric SO2 and NO2 due to the transition of satellite sensors (Wang and Wang, 2020). Our study is also different from past studies (Wang et al., 2016; Qu et al., 2017, 2019a, b) that have applied the 4D-Var technique to OMI data with the GEOS-Chem adjoint model but did not include evaluation with independent satellite data. Qu et al. (2019b) showed joint inversion using OMI SO2 and NO2 benefits from simultaneous adjustment of OH and O3 concentrations, which supports assimilating OMPS SO2 and NO2 observations simultaneously in this study. Additionally, considering that the uncertainty of NH3 emission inventories is up to 153 % over China (Kurokawa et al., 2013) and NH3 emissions are not constrained in our inversions, we also explore issues related to the covariation among species that appear to be independent but indeed are connected through chemical processes and analyze the differences in responses of emissions and aerosols to NH3 emissions uncertainty between joint and single-species assimilations. Finally, this paper also provides the foundation for the Part 2 investigation (Wang et al., 2020) in which we develop various downscaling methods to illustrate that optimized emission, albeit with coarse resolution inherent from OMPS data, can be used to improve the air quality forecast at a resolution much finer than OMPS pixel size.

We describe OMPS and OMI data in Sect. 2. The GEOS-Chem model and its adjoint as well as the design of numerical experiments are presented in Sect. 3. Results of case studies for October 2013 are provided in Sect. 4. Section 5 consists of discussion and conclusions.

2 Data
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2.1 OMPS data as constraints

We use OMPS level-2 SO2 and NO2 tropospheric VCDs in October 2013 as constraints to optimize SO2 and NOx emissions over China. The OMPS nadir mapper on board the Suomi NPP satellite, launched in November 2011, observes hyperspectral solar irradiance and earthshine radiance at 300–380 nm (Flynn et al., 2014). With 35 detectors of 50 km×50 km nominal pixel size in the cross-track direction, OMPS has a swath of 2800 km flying across the Equator at 13:30 local time ascending at the sunlit side of the Earth surface and providing global coverage daily. Both SO2 and NO2 are retrieved through the direct vertical column fitting (DVCF) algorithm with SO2 and NO2 atmospheric profile information from GEOS-Chem simulations and have a retrieval precision of 0.2 and 0.011 DU, respectively, which are estimated from the standard background (a clean region that is far from emission sources) retrievals (Yang et al., 2013, 2014). These precision values can be used as the observation error in the cost function of data assimilation. However, we should notice that the estimated observation (retrieval) errors only represent the observation error distribution of the products as a whole; they cannot represent the observation error distribution for every pixel, because the pixel-level error is amenable to spatiotemporal change in cloud fraction, satellite observation geometry, aerosol impacts, etc. In theory, if the uncertainties could be analytically described at the pixel level, they would be directly applied to improve the satellite product in the first place.

Only pixels with both solar zenith angle (SZA) and view zenith angle (VZA) less than 75 are used, as larger SZA or VZA results in longer light path length and consequently less information content and lower data quality for retrieving the change in SO2 or NO2 loadings in the planetary boundary layer (PBL) where the two trace gases from anthropogenic sources mainly concentrate. We also remove the pixels with radiative cloud fraction (RCF) larger than 0.2 for SO2 and 0.3 for NO2 as a trade-off between the data amount and cloud impacts. Considering their large uncertainty, OMPS SO2 retrievals in the grid cell where the prior simulation is less than 0.1 DU will not be used, except in quality control (QC) sensitivity analysis experiments.

2.2 OMI data for assessment

OMI level-3 SO2 and NO2 tropospheric VCDs at a spatial resolution of 0.25×0.25 from NASA are used for evaluating the model results. OMI is a UV–visible hyperspectral sensor that observes solar irradiance and earthshine radiance at 300–500 nm. The swath of OMI is 2600 km, consisting of 60 detectors with the nominal pixel size of 13 km×24 km at nadir. OMI flies across the Equator in the ascending node at 13:45 local time, which is very close to the 13:30 local time for OMPS. Due to row anomaly (Schenkeveld et al., 2017), OMI takes more than 1 d to provide global coverage. The level-3 product is derived from the level-2 product; the latter is retrieved through the principal component analysis (PCA) algorithm with a fixed air mass factor (AMF) assumption for SO2 (Li et al., 2013) and variation of the differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS) algorithm for NO2 (Krotkov et al., 2017; Marchenko et al., 2015), with a precision of 0.5 DU (Li et al., 2013) and 0.017 DU (Krotkov et al., 2017), respectively. In the level-3 product, pixels affected by row anomaly are removed. For SO2, only the pixel with the shortest light path, SZA less than 70 , RCF less than 0.2, and detector number in the range of 2 to 59 (numbering sequences starting at 1) is retained in a 0.25×0.25 grid cell and then corrected with a new AMF based on GEOS-Chem SO2 profile simulation (Leonard, 2017). For the OMI level-2 NO2 product, the AMF calculation is based on Global Modeling Initiative NO2 profile simulation (Krotkov et al., 2017), and all pixels with SZA less than 85, terrain reflectivity less than 0.3, and RCF less than 0.3 are averaged in a 0.25×0.25 grid cell weighted by the overlapping area of the grid cell and pixel to form the level-3 product (Bucsela et al., 2016). In the assessments, OMI observations are averaged in a 2×2.5 model grid cell, and model simulations are sampled by OMI observational time.

3 Method
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3.1 GEOS-Chem and its adjoint

GEOS-Chem is a 3-D chemistry transport model driven by emissions and GEOS-FP meteorological fields. The secondary sulfate–nitrate–ammonium aerosol formation in the model is introduced by Park et al. (2004). Both aerosols and gases are removed by wet deposition, including washout and rainout from large-scale or convective precipitation (Liu et al., 2001) and the dry deposition following a resistance-in-series scheme with aerodynamic resistance and boundary resistance calculated from GEOS-FP meteorological field and surface resistances based largely on a canopy model (Wang et al., 1998; Wesely, 1989). Anthropogenic SO2, NOx, and NH3 emissions used over East Asia are the mosaic emission inventory (MIX) (Li et al., 2017b) for year 2010. SO2 and NO2 VCDs are simulated at 2×2.5 resolution with 47 vertical layers using both the prior and posterior emission inventories to compare with OMI retrievals.

The GEOS-Chem adjoint model is a tool for efficiently calculating the sensitivity of a scalar cost function with respect to large numbers of model parameters simultaneously such as emissions (Henze et al., 2007). In this study, the cost function is defined as Eq. (1).

(1)Jσ=γ12HSO2Mσ-cSO2TSSO2-1HSO2Mσ-cSO2+12HNO2Mσ-cNO2TSNO2-1HNO2Mσ-cNO2+12σ-σaTSa-1σ-σa

where σ is a state vector, consisting of ln(Ei/Ea,i), and Ei and Ea,i are the ith element in E and Ea, respectively. E is a vector in which SO2 and NOx emissions are ordered by GEOS-Chem model grid cell and by species, and Ea is a prior estimate of it. cSO2 and cNO2 are vectors of OMPS SO2 and NO2 tropospheric VCDs, respectively. SSO2 and SNO2 are observation error covariance matrixes for SO2 and NO2 and are assumed to be diagonal, which means observational errors are uncorrelated. M is the GEOS-Chem model that simulates the relationship between SO2 and NO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and the emission factors. HSO2 and HNO2 are observation operators which map GEOS-Chem simulations of SO2 and NO2 to the observational space, respectively. σa is the prior estimate of σ, and Sa is the error covariance matrix for σa. Sa is assumed to be diagonal with a relative error of 50 % for SO2 and 100 % for NOx as used in Xu et al. (2013). γ is a parameter we introduce to balance the importance of the SO2 observation term (first term on the right side of Eq. 1) and NO2 observational term (second term on the right side of Eq. 1), given both the different sizes and observation errors of these two observation datasets.

OMPS SO2 and NO2 tropospheric VCDs are directly compared to GEOS-Chem tropospheric VCDs of SO2 (HSO2Mσ in Eq. 1) and NO2 (HNO2Mσ in Eq. 1). Retrieving SO2 and NO2 tropospheric VCDs from the satellite requires assumptions regarding SO2 and NO2 vertical profiles, as the sensitivity of the radiance observed by satellite sensors to the changes in SO2 or NO2 loadings is a function of plume height. If the vertical profile assumptions in the retrieval process are inconsistent with the GEOS-Chem simulations, the inconsistency partly contributes to the difference between the GEOS-Chem simulations and the OMPS retrievals (HSO2Mσ-cSO2 or HNO2Mσ-cNO2). In this study, OMPS SO2 and NO2 tropospheric VCDs are retrieved using the shape of vertical profiles from GEOS-Chem simulations (Yang et al., 2013, 2014), but the differences in model version, simulation year, and emission inventory still exist. These differences still can lead to the differences in vertical profiles, hence partly contributing to the difference between the GEOS-Chem simulations and the OMPS retrievals. The vertical profile differences can lead to a mean bias of −6.8 % overall at the pixel level (Fig. S1) and −7.5 % (Fig. S2) for OMPS SO2 and NO2 retrievals, respectively. And we shall discuss the impacts of these biases on emission inverse modeling in Sect. 4.1.1.

https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/20/6631/2020/acp-20-6631-2020-f01

Figure 1Validation of adjoint model sensitivity through comparison to centered finite-difference results for a 3 d simulation. Shown here is the sensitivity of the column cost function (penalty term is not included, and horizontal transport is turned off) with respect to the logarithm of anthropogenic SO2 (a) and NOx (b) emission scale factors: the 1 : 1 line (dotted), number of grid columns (N), root mean squared error (RMSE), and correlation coefficient (R), and means and standard deviations of finite-difference sensitivity and adjoint sensitivity (x and y).

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In the optimization formulation, the forward model errors are also considered as part of the observation error term. However, while several ways to construct model error covariance matrix exist, including the Hollingsworth–Lönnberg (Hollingsworth and Lönnberg, 1986) and NMC (Bannister, 2008) methods, their application for offline CTM model error characterization deserves a separate study. The Hollingsworth method extracts observation error variance (including forward model error) from (observation–background) covariance statistics with the assumptions that observation error is spatially uncorrelated, background error is spatially correlated as a function of distance, and observation error and background error are uncorrelated. The assumption that background error is spatially correlated as a function of distance only is suitable for the meteorological fields that vary smoothly, but for chemical species, emissions also contribute significantly to model errors and emissions may not be spatially correlated. The NMC method is normally applied to weather forecast models or online-coupled weather–chemistry models (Benedetti and Fisher, 2007). Offline CTMs such as GEOS-Chem use the meteorological reanalysis, and therefore NMC is not applicable here to quantify the CTM's transport error. Consequently, the CTM's transport errors are neglected in the past emission optimization work (Wang et al., 2016) and are adopted in this study. Admittedly, this simplification should be studied in the future together with the evaluation and developments of methods to characterize offline CTM errors.

We developed the observation operators for OMPS SO2 and NO2, and the validations are shown in Fig. 1. The sensitivities of the cost function with respect to anthropogenic SO2 and NOx emissions from the adjoint model are consistent with the sensitivities calculated through the finite-difference approach. Hence, Fig. 1 confirms the correctness of the new observation operators integrated into the GEOS-Chem adjoint model.

To optimize the emission inventories, σ is adjusted iteratively until the cost function is minimized. The minimization is conducted with the L-BFGS-B algorithm (Byrd et al., 1995), which utilizes the sensitivity of the cost function with respect to σ that is calculated by the GEOS-Chem adjoint model. The minimization process halts when the difference in the cost function between two consecutive iterations is less than 3 %. This selection is to expedite the computation while still maintaining the similar accuracy for the optimization; further tests show that more iterations (after < 3 % reduction of cost function) do not yield a discernible difference in the cost function values (Fig. S3) and optimization results (Tables S1 and S2).

3.2 Experiment design

Several elements play a role in the inverse modeling of emissions, including data quality control, balancing the spatial distributions of observational frequencies for the same species, balancing the observation contributions from different species, and uncertainties in the NH3 emission inventory (because NH3 has impacts on SO2 and NO2 lifetimes). To investigate the impacts of these factors on the posterior emissions, we design a set of experiments as summarized in Tables 1 and 2. All these experiments use OMPS SO2 and NO2 retrievals to optimize corresponding emissions over China in October 2013 at a horizontal resolution of 2×2.5. Although finer-resolution options such as 0.5×0.625 or 0.25×0.3125 are available for China, the 2×2.5 resolution is selected for two reasons: (1) it saves computational time and (2) the coarse resolution of OMPS retrievals (50 km × 50 km at nadir and 190 km × 50 km at edges) has no first-order information to resolve the emissions at a fine resolution of 0.5×0.625 or 0.25×0.3125. In Part 2 (Wang et al., 2020) of this study, we develop downscaling tools for regional air quality modeling. Indeed, one of the goals of the two-part investigation is to illustrate how OMPS data could be used to improve the air quality forecast at a resolution much finer than OMPS pixel size.

Table 1Different experimental design for using OMPS SO2 and NO2 to constrain corresponding emissions over China for October 2013.

a See description of these names in detail in Sect. 3.2. b N in this column is the number of OMPS overpasses that have SO2 observations in the 2×2.5 GEOS-Chem grid cell. c γ is a parameter used to balance SO2 and NO2 observation terms in the cost function. d OMPS SO2 retrievals in the 2×2.5 grid cell where the prior GEOS-Chem simulation is less than 0.1 DU are removed. e n/a stands for not applicable. f All of the following γ values are used: 20, 50, 100, 300, 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000.

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3.2.1 Control experiments

The first control experiment is E−SO2 (Table 1), in which only OMPS SO2 tropospheric VCDs are used to constrain SO2 emissions by removing the second additive term on the right side of Eq. (1). Consequently, γ is set to unity. If the OMPS SO2 tropospheric VCD error is set to 0.2 DU (Yang et al., 2013) for every pixel, the SO2 observational term in the cost function (first term on the right side of Eq. 1) over the North China Plain is much larger than that over southwestern China (Fig. 2b), which yields a high possibility of overconstraining the former and underconstraining the latter. The spatially unbalanced cost function is caused by cloud screening, as the number of observations over southwestern China is much lower than that over the North China Plain (Fig. 2a). To balance the cost function by accounting for this difference in the number of observations, the SO2 observation error is set to 0.2 DU multiplied by the square root of the number of OMPS overpasses that have SO2 observation in the 2×2.5 GEOS-Chem grid cell. The balance approach essentially normalizes observation terms in the cost function by the observation counts, which has been used in our study (Xu et al., 2015) to optimally invert aerosol optical properties from the skylight polarization and intensity measurements by the AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET).

https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/20/6631/2020/acp-20-6631-2020-f02

Figure 2Panels (a) and (b) show the numbers of the OMPS overpass time that provides SO2 VCD retrievals and the SO2 term in the cost function at the first iteration, respectively, in October 2013.

In the second experiment, E−NO2, OMPS NO2 tropospheric VCDs alone are used to constrain NOx emissions by removing the first additive term on the right side of Eq. (1). Due to cloud screening, much more OMPS NO2 observations exist over the North China Plain than over southwestern China, which also could lead to a spatially unbalanced cost function if the OMPS NO2 observation error is uniform. The OMPS NO2 observation error is, however, assumed to be 0.011 DU (Yang et al., 2014) for every pixel in this study, regardless of location, because the NOx emissions adjustments during the inverse modeling process are supposed to be mainly over the North China Plain where prior NOx emissions are much larger than those over southwestern China. In this study, we optimize emission scale factors rather than the emissions themselves. As a result, emissions are adjusted mainly at locations where prior emissions are large and kept as zero for those (2×2.5) grid boxes of zero prior emissions.

In the third experiment, E-joint, both the SO2 and NO2 from OMPS are used simultaneously for two reasons. Firstly, SO2 and NO2 concentrations can affect each other through several pathways. For example, Qu et al. (2019b) showed that the change in SO2 or NOx emissions leads to the changes in O3 and OH concentrations and hence the changes in SO2 and NO2 oxidations. Here, we will explore how the optimization results may depend on the uncertainty of ammonia emissions (as elaborated in Sect. 3.2.2). Secondly, the computational time is reduced by  50 % in the joint assimilation as compared to separate assimilations when computational resources are restricted to running individual inversions sequentially (as opposed to in parallel), and energy usage is also saved; the latter requires the realization of GEOS-Chem adjoint twice, while only once is needed by the former.

In the E-joint experiment, observational terms for SO2 and NO2 in the cost function should be balanced through setting γ in Eq. (1). When it is not balanced, SO2 observations have very little impact on the inversion results as the optimization algorithm will firstly minimize the observational term for NO2 unless many more iterations than is computationally feasible are performed, which is caused by the fact that the observational error and valid number of NO2 observations are respectively smaller and larger than the counterparts of SO2. We thus subjectively derive γ in a nonarbitrary way in order to focus equally on both species, thereby tackling the imbalance in their observational constraints. In this manner, the cost function is defined to serve the purpose of joint inversion of SO2 and NO2 emissions. Initially, we set γ to be the ratio of the number of NO2 observations to the number of SO2 observations. This approach is not feasible here as the SO2 observational error in E−SO2 is much larger than the NO2 observational error in E−NO2; not only does the number of observations play a role, but the observation error also has important impacts on balancing the cost function. If γ is simply set as unity, the NO2 observational term in Eq. (1) is a factor of  200 larger than the SO2 observational term, which can lead to OMPS SO2 in the E-joint experiment being negligible. Consequently, to balance the two terms, γ is set as 200 (ratio of observational term in E−NO2 to that in E−SO2) in E-joint, and sensitivity experiments using different values of γ are conducted (see Sect. 3.2.2). A similar balance approach that adjusts the contribution of observation terms in the cost function has been used in previous work that assimilates satellite trace gas retrievals to invert emissions (Qu et al., 2019b) or invert the aerosol optical properties from skylight polarization measurements of AERONET (Xu et al., 2015).

3.2.2 Sensitivity experiments

To investigate the impacts of data quality control and spatially balancing the cost function on optimizing SO2 emissions only, we design two sensitivity experiments. The first is E−SO2-noQC-noBL, which is similar to E−SO2 except that (1) OMPS SO2 retrievals in the 2×2.5 grid cell where the prior GEOS-Chem simulation is less than 0.1 DU are also assimilated, i.e., without QC; and (2) OMPS SO2 observation error is set as 0.2 DU for every pixel, which means we do not spatially balance the cost function. The second sensitivity experiment is E−SO2-noBL, in which the cost function is not spatially balanced, and it uses the same setting as E−SO2 except for assuming an observation error of 0.2 DU uniformly.

To evaluate the effect of γ (of 200) in E-joint, we further test γ values of 20, 50, 100, 300, 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000 in the joint inversions; hereafter these experiments are named E-joint–dγ. Through these sensitivity experiments, we study the proper γ range for jointly assimilating OMPS SO2 and NO2. In future studies that may be conducted to jointly assimilate OMPS SO2 and NO2 for other months to obtain a long-term optimized emission inventory, setting proper γ values for each month based on the range with easy adjustment according to the numbers of OMPS SO2 and NO2 observations and their associated errors is proposed.

NH3 emissions are not optimized in our inverse modeling and yet their uncertainty is up to 153 % over China (Kurokawa et al., 2013). Thus, it is important to evaluate how this uncertainty may affect posterior SO2 and NOx emissions. Wang et al. (2013) emphasized the importance of controlling NH3 to alleviate PM2.5 pollution over China; however, it could worsen acid rain (Liu et al., 2019). Changes in NH3 emissions are expected to change ammonium and nitrate aerosol concentrations, or the aerosol surface area for heterogeneous N2O5 chemistry, hence affecting NO2 concentrations or posterior NOx emissions in the inverse modeling. The change in posterior NOx emissions is expected to lead to the change in posterior SO2 emissions in the joint inverse modeling. Thus, we shall investigate how the optimized SO2 and NO2 emission inventories would change if NH3 emissions were reduced to 50 % and 20 %. Correspondingly, all these experiments are summarized in Table 2. E-SO2-0.5NH3, E-NO2-0.5NH3, and E-joint–0.5NH3γ500 in Table 2 are similar to E−SO2, E−NO2, and E-joint–dγ (γ=500) in Table 1, respectively, but NH3 emissions are set to 50 % of the original values. Similarly, E-SO2-0.2NH3, E-NO2-0.2NH3, and E-joint–0.2NH3γ500 are the scenarios in which NH3 emissions are set to 20 % of the original values.

Table 2Different experimental design for assessing the impacts of NH3 emission inventories on using OMPS SO2 and NO2 to constrain corresponding emissions over China for October 2013a.

a Data quality control and observation errors are the same as E-joint in Table 1. b See description of these names in detail in Sect. 3.2. c γ is a parameter used to balance SO2 and NO2 observation terms in the cost function. d n/a stands for not applicable.

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Figure 3Comparisons of VCDs of SO2 and NO2 from the OMPS and the GEOS-Chem prior and posterior simulations in October 2013 over China. The first row is SO2 VCDs from the OMPS (a), the prior simulation (b), the E−SO2 posterior simulation (c), and the E-joint posterior simulation (d). The second row is NO2 tropospheric VCDs from the OMPS (e), the prior simulation (f), the E−NO2 posterior simulation (g), and the E-joint posterior simulation (h). The third row is the SO2 VCD scatter plots of the GEOS-Chem prior (i), the E−SO2 posterior (j), and the E-joint posterior (k) versus the OMPS, respectively. The last row is the NO2 tropospheric VCD scatter plots of the GEOS-Chem prior (l), the E−NO2 posterior (m), and the E-joint posterior (n) versus the OMPS, respectively. The linear correlation coefficient (R), linear regression equation, root mean squared error (RMSE), normalized mean bias (NMB), mean bias (MB), and number of observations (N) are shown over scatter plots.

3.3 Evaluation statistics

We use the linear correlation coefficient (R), root mean square error (RMSE), mean bias (MB), normalized mean bias (NMB), normalized standard deviation (NSD), and normalized centered root mean square error (NCRMSE) as measures to evaluate GEOS-Chem SO2 and NO2 VCD simulations with satellite (OMPS and OMI) observations. NSD is the ratio of the standard deviation of the simulation to the standard deviation of the observation. NCRMSE is similar to RMSE, but the impact of bias is removed. This is shown in Eq. (2), where i is the ith grid cell, N is the total number of grid cells, Mi and Oi are the ith GEOS-Chem simulation and satellite observation, respectively, and M and O are averages of GEOS-Chem simulation and satellite observation, respectively. A composite summary of these statistics is provided by the Taylor diagram (Taylor, 2001), which is a quadrant that summarizes R (shown as cosine of polar angle), NSD (shown as radius from the quadrant center), and NCRMSE (shown as radius from the observation which is located at the point where R and NSD are unity).

(2)NCRMSE=1Ni=1N[Mi-M-(Oi-O)]21Ni=1N(Oi-O)2
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Figure 4The top is anthropogenic SO2 emissions from prior MIX 2010 (a), posterior E−SO2 (b), posterior E-joint (c), the difference between posterior E−SO2 and prior MIX 2010 (d), the difference between posterior E-joint and posterior E−SO2 (e), and the relative difference between posterior E-joint and posterior E−SO2 (f) for October 2013. The bottom is similar to the top except that (1) it is for NOx and (2) E−SO2 is replaced by E−NO2.

4 Results
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4.1 Separate and joint assimilations of SO2 and NO2

4.1.1 Self-consistency check

The cost functions are reduced by 41.6 %, 27.6 %, and 28.6 % for E−SO2, E−NO2, and E-joint, respectively, and the results are shown in Fig. 3. Noticeably, hot spots of SO2 VCDs over the North China Plain and the Sichuan Basin are shown in the OMPS observations (Fig. 3a), prior (Fig. 3b), posterior E−SO2 (Fig. 3c), and posterior E-joint (Fig. 3d) simulations; however, the prior simulation has an NMB of 106.5 % (Fig. 3i) when compared with OMPS. The SO2 NMB (106.5 %) between GOES-Chem prior simulation and OMPS is much larger than the NMB (−6.8 %, Fig. S1) caused by the difference in SO2 vertical profiles between the OMPS SO2 retrieval algorithm and current prior simulation; thus the averaging kernel is not considered in the OMPS SO2 observation operator. This large positive NMB decreases to 13.0 % and 38.3 % in the posterior E−SO2 (Fig. 3j) and E-joint (Fig. 3k) simulations with an RMSE decreasing from 0.42 to 0.13 and 0.20 DU and R increasing from 0.62 to 0.72 and 0.64, respectively. Large NO2 values are found over the North China Plain and eastern China with large NOx emissions from the transportation sector (Fig. 3e–h). Comparing with OMPS NO2, GEOS-Chem results have an RMSE of 0.05 DU in the prior simulation (Fig. 3l) and reduce to 0.02 and 0.03 DU for E−NO2 (Fig. 3m) and E-joint (Fig. 3n), with R increasing from 0.95 to 0.99 and 0.98, respectively.

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Figure 5Comparisons of VCDs of SO2 and NO2 from the OMPS and the GEOS-Chem prior and posterior simulations with that from the OMI in October 2013 over China. The first row is SO2 VCDs from the OMI (a), the prior simulation (b), the E−SO2 posterior simulation (c), and the E-joint posterior simulation (d). The second row is NO2 tropospheric VCDs from the OMI (e), the prior simulation (f), the E−NO2 posterior simulation (g), and the E-joint posterior simulation (h). The third row is Taylor diagrams for comparing GEOS-Chem simulations (squares for prior, triangles for posterior E−SO2 or E−NO2, and diamonds for E-joint) and OMPS observations (circles) with OMI SO2 (i) and NO2 (j).

Similarly, the averaging kernel is not considered in the OMPS NO2 observation operator for optimization for the following reasons. First, the OMPS NO2 retrieval differences due to the profile differences can lead to a NMB of −7.5 % (Fig. S2), which is still smaller than the prior GEOS-Chem simulation NMB (10.9 %, Fig. 3l). Second, a NMB of 10.9 % for the model NO2 VCD simulation is not a very large value, as the difference between satellite NO2 VCD retrievals and ground-based measurements could be comparable to this value. For example, Krotkov et al. (2017) show that OMI NO2 VCD retrievals, on average, are  10 % larger than the ground-based Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer. Thus, current research should mainly focus on the change in the spatial distribution (such as linear correlation coefficient) rather than the bias of the prior and posterior GEOS-Chem NO2 VCD simulation. Finally, given that the linear correlation coefficient between OMPS retrievals and those that are modified through integration of the averaging kernel and NO2 vertical profile from this study is as large as 0.99, the averaging kernel is not dealt with in the development of the OMPS NO2 observation operator. In general, the E−SO2 and E−NO2 posterior simulations show better results than E-joint, which may be affected by the value of γ, which we will discuss in Sect. 4.3.

4.1.2 Emissions

The anthropogenic SO2 and NOx prior MIX emissions for October 2010 and posterior emissions from E−SO2, E−NO2, and E-joint for October 2013 are shown in Fig. 4. SO2 and NOx hot spots are found in the prior emissions over both the North China Plain and eastern China, while large SO2 emissions are also found in southwestern China. Anthropogenic SO2 emissions over China are 1166 Gg S in prior MIX for October 2010 (Fig. 4a), dropping 418 Gg S (Fig. 4b) and 306 Gg S (Fig. 4c), or 35.8 % and 26.2 %, in E−SO2 and E-joint, respectively, for October 2013. The differences between the estimates of this study and the MIX emission inventory, however, should not be considered as trends, and they are derived from different approaches. Posterior E-joint total anthropogenic SO2 emissions are 112 Gg, or 15 % larger than E−SO2, over China (Fig. 4e). Regionally, positive differences between E-joint and E−SO2 anthropogenic SO2 emissions are found over most areas of central China and eastern China, and a relative difference of up to 100 % is found over Shanxi Province (Fig. 4f). Grids with large differences are generally in locations where prior anthropogenic SO2 emissions are larger, which means the pattern is affected by the fact that the algorithm optimizes emission scale factors rather than emissions directly. Anthropogenic NOx emissions over China are reduced by 5.8 % and 6.5 %, from 714 Gg N in prior MIX for October 2010 (Fig. 4g) to 672 Gg N (Fig. 4h) in E−NO2 and 667 Gg N (Fig. 4i) in E-joint for October 2013. Although the relative difference between E-joint and E−NO2 proved to be less than 2 % in terms of total anthropogenic NOx emissions over China (Fig. 4k), it is up to 40 % over Shanxi Province, and both grids with large positive differences and grids with large negative differences exist over the North China Plain (Fig. 4l).

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Figure 6Panels (a) and (b) show the difference between OMPS and OMI SO2 and the scatter plot of OMPS versus OMI SO2. Panels (c) and (d) are similar to (a) and (b) but for NO2. The linear correlation coefficient (R), linear regression equation, root mean squared error (RMSE), normalized mean bias (NMB), mean bias (MB), and number of observations (N) are shown over scatter plots.

4.1.3 Independent evaluation with OMI data

The optimized emission inventories are evaluated by comparing prior and posterior GEOS-Chem simulations of SO2 and NO2 with OMI VCDs as shown in Fig. 5. We only focus on regions covered by OMPS observations, although smaller changes in emissions exist in outskirt regions where OMPS observations are not used. High SO2 levels are shown over the North China Plain and the Sichuan Basin in both the prior and posterior simulations, while OMI only observes hot spots over the former region (Fig. 5a–d). When validating with OMI SO2 VCDs, the NMB is  300 % in the prior simulation, and it reduces to  100 % in E−SO2 and  130 % in E-joint (Fig. 5i). Not only is the NMB reduced, but the spatial distributions are also improved, with the NCRMSE reducing from  1.6 in the prior simulation to  0.7 in E−SO2 and  0.8 in E-joint, which is much closer to  0.6 when comparing OMPS observations with OMI observations (Fig. 5i). For NO2, OMI observations and the prior and posterior simulations show large NO2 concentrations over the North China Plain and eastern China (Fig. 5e–h). The improvements for E−NO2 and E-joint are reflected in terms of R when evaluating with OMI tropospheric VCDs, although the two experiments show a larger negative NMB than the prior simulation (Fig. 5j). In all the evaluations, OMI SO2 and NO2 VCD retrievals are not corrected by calculating new air mass factors that are derived from integrating scattering weights and corresponding vertical profiles of GEOS-Chem simulations of this study. However, Fig. S4 shows similar improvements if new air mass factors are applied, although statistic metric values are slightly different.

Here, OMPS observations and GEOS-Chem simulations are compared with OMI observations as an evaluation of posterior emission inventories, but it is not assumed that OMI provides the true status of SO2 and NO2 in the atmosphere. OMI and OMPS observe the same trend direction of SO2 (NO2) over China, but the strengths of the trend are quite different (Wang and Wang, 2020). The OMPS SO2 average is  0.14 DU, or  95 % larger than OMI SO2, and the R of the two products is 0.81 (Fig. 6b). Thus, it is reasonable that posterior SO2 is larger than OMI observations by  100 % in E−SO2 and  130 % in E-joint. OMPS NO2 is  24 % smaller than OMI (Fig. 6d), which explains why the posterior NO2 simulations have a larger negative NMB than the prior simulation when compared with the OMI observations. Our analysis also shows that the systematic difference among various satellite products for the same species (such as SO2 or NO2) can lead to biases in constraining emissions, but the posterior GEOS-Chem simulations still show better results in terms of the spatial distribution of SO2 and NO2.

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Figure 7SO2 VCD in October 2013 from OMPS (a), prior GEOS-Chem simulation (b), posterior GEOS-Chem simulation through the use of all OMPS data in the red box (c), and posterior GEOS-Chem simulation through the use of only OMPS data that are in the grid cell where GEOS-Chem prior simulation of VCD is larger than 0.1 DU. For posterior simulation, we only plot SO2 VCD over grid cells where OMPS data are used to constrain emissions. M and S point to a grid cell in Inner Mongolia and the Sichuan Basin, respectively.

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Figure 8Taylor diagram comparing GEOS-Chem simulation with OMPS (a for SO2 and b for NO2) or OMI (c for SO2 and d for NO2) in October 2013. Circles, squares, and triangles represent GEOS-Chem simulations using prior MIX 2010 emissions, posterior emissions constrained by single species (E−SO2 for a and c, E−NO2 for b and d), and posterior emissions constrained through joint inversion (E-joint), respectively. Different triangles labeled by numbers represent different γ values in Eq. (1), and 1 through 9 correspond to 20, 50, 100, 200, 300, 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000, respectively.

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4.2 The impacts of QC and spatial balance

The results of E−SO2-noQC-noBL and E−SO2-noBL are compared with E−SO2 to show the impacts of QC and spatial balance. Both OMPS retrievals and the GEOS-Chem prior simulations show that SO2 VCDs over Inner Mongolia and the Sichuan Basin (grid cells M and S, respectively in Fig. 7) are smaller than those over the North China Plain; this pattern reverses in the posterior E−SO2-noQC-noBL simulation where SO2 over the North China Plain becomes smaller than that over grid cells M and S. Grid cell M becomes more reasonable after conducting the data quality control by removing OMPS SO2 in any grid cells where prior GEOS-Chem SO2 VCDs are less than 0.1 DU (e.g., as in E−SO2-noBL, as shown in Fig. 7d). QC helps to improve models over grid cell M, as the data removed are close to Inner Mongolia and are generally less than 0.1 DU, which is comparable to the retrieval error. SO2 over grid cell S from E−SO2-noBL (Fig. 7d) is, however, still larger than that over the North China Plain, compared with the better spatial pattern from E−SO2 (Fig. 3c). Thus, QC and spatial balancing of the cost function together improve the spatial pattern of the posterior GEOS-Chem SO2 VCD simulation.

Table 3Posterior anthropogenic emissions for October 2013 from E-joint, E-joint–dγ, E−SO2, and E−NO2.

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4.3 The impacts of γ on joint assimilations

In addition to setting γ as 200 in E-joint, we test the impacts of using various γ values on joint assimilation in E-joint–dγ for October 2013. All the SO2 and NO2 VCDs from prior and posterior E-joint and E-joint–dγ simulations are compared with OMPS counterparts (Fig. 8a, b). Regardless of the γ values used, all the posterior simulations of SO2 show smaller NMB and NCRMSE than the prior simulation when validating against OMPS counterparts, but the extents of improvement vary. When γ is 20, 50, or 100, the SO2 terms are obviously underconstrained, and GEOS-Chem SO2 NCRMSE, evaluated with OMPS observations, changes from  1.8 in the prior simulation to in the range of  1.4 to  1.7 in the posterior E-joint–dγ simulations, which are much larger than  0.7 in E−SO2 (Fig. 8a). Similarly, when γ is no larger than 100, the bias of GEOS-Chem SO2, validated with OMPS observations, only reduces from  100 % to  75 %, compared to  25 % in E−SO2 (Fig. 8a), and the posterior SO2 emissions are in the range of 1055 to 1143 Gg S, which is much larger than 748 Gg S from E−SO2 (Table 3). When γ is in the range of 200 to 2000, the SO2 simulation results and emissions from joint assimilations are more similar to those from E−SO2 than those with γ no larger than 100 (Fig. 8a and Table 3). Similar to SO2, the GEOS-Chem simulations of NO2 in the sensitivity experiments improve in terms of R and NCRMSE in all joint assimilation tests, but the significance of γ is less than that for SO2. NO2 NCRMSE is  0.4 in the prior simulation when evaluating with OMPS counterparts, compared to the range of  0.2 to  0.25 in E-joint, E-joint–dγ, and E−NO2 (Fig. 8b). The posterior NOx emissions are in the range of 662 to 682 Gg N, compared with 672 Gg N in E−NO2 (Table 3).

The impacts of γ are also reflected when evaluating SO2 and NO2 simulations with OMI retrievals (Fig. 8c, d). Small γ values of 20, 50, and 100 lead to a much larger bias and NCRMSE for SO2 from E-joint–dγ than that from E−SO2. For NO2, these small γ values make results from E-joint–dγ very similar to that from E−NO2.

Considering all of the above analyses, the results with γ in the range of 200 to 2000 are deemed acceptable. The E-joint–dγ (200γ2000) emissions are within −3 % to 15 % of E−SO2 for SO2 and ±2 % of E−NO2 for NOx in terms of total anthropogenic SO2 and NOx emissions over China. When evaluating with OMPS observations, the NCRMSE values using the posterior emissions from the separate and joint (200γ2000) inversions are  60 % and  45 %–60 % smaller than those using the prior emissions for SO2, respectively, and  50 % and  38 %–50 % smaller than those using the prior emissions for NO2, respectively.

Table 4Posterior anthropogenic emissions for October 2013 under different NH3 emission scenarios.

* n/a stands for not applicable.

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Figure 9Relative changes in posterior SO2 (a–d) and NOx (e–h) emissions from the scenarios of perturbing NH3 emissions with respect to that using the original NH3 emission inventory. Panels (a) and (b) show relative changes in posterior SO2 emissions from E-SO2-0.5NH3 and E-SO2-0.2NH3 with respect to that from E−SO2, respectively. Panels (c) and (d) show relative changes in posterior SO2 emissions from E-joint–0.5NH3-γ500 and E-joint–0.2NH3γ500 with respect to that from E-joint–dγ (γ=500), respectively. Panels (e) and (f) show relative changes in posterior NOx emissions from E-NO2-0.5NH3 and E-NO2-0.2NH3 with respect to that from E−NO2, respectively. Panels (g) and (h) are similar to (c) and (d), respectively, but for posterior NOx emissions. Minimum and maximum are shown in brackets.

When evaluating with OMI retrievals, joint inversion shows better results than separate inversion for SO2 or NO2, but not both, depending on the value of γ . When γ is 20, 50, or 100, the NO2 NCRMSE for E-joint–dγ appears to be smaller than that for E−NO2, but the SO2 NCRMSE for E-joint–dγ is larger than that for E−SO2. Conversely, when γ is 1000, 1500, or 2000, the SO2 NCRMSE for E-joint–dγ is smaller than that for E−SO2, but the NO2 NCRMSE for E-joint–dγ is larger than that for E−NO2. This is similar to the findings by Qu et al. (2019b) in which the months when the joint inversion shows better results than the separate inversion for SO2 (NO2) have a worse result for NO2 (SO2). The benefit of joint inversion for improving only one species is similar to Qu et al. (2019b) and is likely due to the complicated relationship between these two species through different chemical pathways. For example, O3 and OH are key species that connect the chemistry of SO2 and NO2, and aerosols can affect the photolysis and heterogenous chemistry. Hence, while joint inversion to improve both species cannot be demonstrated here, it should be reviewed as the first step of simultaneously assimilating multiple species (including AOD, NH3, and other trace gases) to optimize emissions. Until then, the system is not ready to holistically evaluate the benefits of joint assimilation to improve the model in a systematic manner. It is worth noting that Xu et al. (2013) showed the feasibility of using MODIS cloud-free radiance to optimize emissions of SO2 and NO2 at the same time. Future research should add the aerosol optical depth or visible reflectance (as well as tropospheric O3 if reliable) as constraints to further evaluate the benefits of joint assimilation for improving model overall performance in a systematic matter.

4.4 The impacts of NH3 emissions

In the single-species inversions, NH3 emission uncertainty has weaker impacts on posterior SO2 emissions than NOx emissions. Posterior SO2 emissions over China are 748 Gg S in the 100 % NH3 emission scenario (E−SO2), and they only slightly reduce to 747 and 745 Gg S when NH3 emissions are 50 % (E-SO2-0.5NH3) and 20 % (E-SO2-0.2NH3) of the original values, respectively (Table 4). The largest relative changes at model-grid-cell scale are only −2.5 % (Fig. 9a) for E-SO2-0.5NH3 and −4.7 % (Fig. 9b) for E-SO2-0.2NH3. All these results can be explained by considering how changes in NH3 can potentially impact the lifetimes of SO2 and NO2 and hence affect SO2 and NO2 VCD simulations. When the NH3 emissions are perturbed to 50 % and 20 % of the original values, GEOS-Chem SO2 VCDs only increase up to 3.8 % and 6.1 %, respectively, in some grid cells over the Sichuan Basin in the prior simulations, and these changes are even much smaller over the North China Plain (Fig. 10a, b), as NH3 has no direct impacts on the life cycle of SO2. This is understandable because in GEOS-Chem, once SO2 is oxidized to H2SO4, SO42- remains as particulate sulfate regardless of whether it is neutralized by NH3 or not (Wang et al., 2008). Hence, the reduction of NH3 to 50 % and 20 % overall has minimal (negligible) impact on SO2 amount in the prior simulation and the posterior separate SO2 emission inversion.

Although the posterior NOx emissions in the scenarios of 50 % (E-NO2-0.5NH3) and 20 % (E-NO2-0.2NH3) NH3 emission experiments of the original values are 5 Gg N (0.7 %) and 19 Gg N (2.8 %), respectively, smaller than those when using the original (E−NO2) NH3 emissions over China (Table 4), the reduction is up to −4.0 % (Fig. 9e) for E-NO2-0.5NH3 and −9.1 % (Fig. 9f) for E-NO2-0.2NH3 in individual grid cells. These decreases are understood by simultaneous reduction of nitrate by 59.5 % (Fig. 12h vs. 12g) and 80.5 % (Fig. 12i vs. 12g) and ammonium by 39.6 % (Fig. 12n vs. 12m) and 67.5 % (Fig. 12o vs. 12m), which leads to large reduction of the hydrated aerosol surface area for heterogeneous N2O5 chemistry at night and hence overall NO2 lifetime (Fig. 10c, d). N2O5 normally forms at night by reaction between NO2 and NO3 and thermally decomposes back to NO2 and NO3 (Seinfeld and Pandis, 2016), and hence the amount of N2O5, NO2, and NO3 is in equilibrium through the reversible reaction. Since the hydrolysis of N2O5 to form HNO3 mainly occurs on hydrated aerosol particles (Seinfeld and Pandis, 2016), the decrease in hydrated aerosol surface area (due to reduction of NH3 emission) leads to less hydrolysis of N2O5 (an important sink for atmospheric NOx) and subsequently more NO2 to be in equilibrium with N2O5 at night. As a result, the reduction of NH3 emissions further increases the positive bias in the prior NO2 simulations when comparing with OMPS observations, and to compensate for such a large positive bias, nonnegligible decreases in the posterior NOx emissions are required (Fig. 9e and f). The reduction of nitrate and ammonium aerosols can also increase sunlight reaching the troposphere and hence photolysis of O3 and NO2. Figure S5 separates the impacts of the increase in photolysis of O3 and NO2 and the decrease in heterogeneous N2O5 chemistry on NO2 lifetime and shows that the former is negligible compared with the latter.

The decreases in posterior SO2 and NOx emissions in the joint inversions caused by the reduction of NH3 emissions are stronger than those in the separate inversions (Table 4 and Fig. 9). Although the changes in NH3 emissions only have slight impacts on the SO2 separate inversions (E−SO2, E-SO2-0.5NH3, and E-SO2-0.2NH3), the posterior SO2 emission is 802 Gg S in E-joint–dγ (γ=500) and down to 783 Gg S (decreasing by 2.4 %) and 746 Gg S (decreasing by 7.0 %) in E-joint–0.5NH3γ500 and E-joint–0.2NH3γ500, respectively (Table 4); in some grid cells, the relative reductions are up to −9.0 % (Fig. 9c) for E-joint–0.5NH3γ500 and −27.7 % (Fig. 9d) for E-joint–0.2NH3γ500. For posterior NOx emissions at the grid cells, the relative changes are up to −15.2 % (Fig. 9g) for E-joint–0.5NH3γ500 and −29.4 % (Fig. 9h) for E-joint–0.2NH3γ500 with respect to E-joint–dγ (γ=500).

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Figure 10Relative change in GEOS-Chem SO2 VCDs when NH3 emissions reduce to 50 % (a) and 20 % (b), respectively, at OMPS overpassing time. Panels (c) and (d) are similar to (a) and (b), respectively, but for NO2.

4.5 Aerosol responses to emission changes

Although SO2 emissions over the North China Plain (E-joint–dγ (γ=500)) have decreased by more than 50 %, and NOx emissions have also been reduced, reductions of sulfate–nitrate–ammonium (SNA) aerosol optical depth (AOD) over the same region are only up to 10 % (Fig. 11). This is because the North China Plain is mainly polluted by nitrate rather than sulfate (Fig. 12a–l), and the reduction of SO2 emissions will increase nitrate loadings in the atmosphere (Fig. 12g–l), which is also consistent with the research of Kharol et al. (2013) that shows nitrate concentrations decrease as SO2 emissions increase; the reduction of SO2 emissions leads to less H2SO4 reacting with NH3, which further favors the reaction of HNO3 and NH3 to form nitrate. As NH3 emission changes reduce by 50 % and 80 %, ammonium column loadings decrease by  40 % and  70 % (Fig. 12g–l), respectively, and nitrate column loadings even decrease by  70 % and  90 %, respectively (Fig. 12m–r).

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Figure 11Sulfate–nitrate–ammonium aerosol optical depth in prior (a) and posterior joint inversion (γ=500) (b). Panel (c) shows the difference between (b) and (a), and (d) shows the relative change in percentage.

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Figure 12Sulfate, nitrate, and ammonium column loadings in different scenarios. Panels (a)(c) show prior sulfate at 100 %, 50 %, and 20 % NH3 emissions, respectively. Panels (d)(f) show posterior sulfate from joint inversions (γ=500) at 100 %, 50 %, and 20 % NH3 emissions, respectively. Panels (g–i) and (m–r) are similar to (a–f) but for nitrate and ammonium, respectively.

5 Discussion and conclusions
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We developed 4D-Var observation operators for assimilating OMPS SO2 and NO2 VCDs to constrain SO2 and NOx emissions through GEOS-Chem adjoint model. The approach is applied for a case study over China for October 2013 at 2×2.5 resolution, and the MIX 2010 is used as the prior emission inventory. Several experiments of assimilating OMPS SO2 and NO2 separately and jointly are conducted, and SO2 and NO2 VCDs from the GEOS-Chem prior and posterior simulations are compared with counterparts from OMPS and OMI.

OMPS SO2 and NO2 retrievals are separately and jointly used to constrain their corresponding emissions. In the single-species inversions, posterior anthropogenic SO2 and NOx emissions are 748 Gg S and 672 Gg N for October 2013, down from 1166 Gg S and 714 Gg N in the prior MIX for October 2010, respectively. In the joint inversions of assimilating OMPS SO2 and NO2 simultaneously, the cost function is balanced according to the values of observational terms rather than the number of observations. When the cost function is well balanced (γ in the range of 200 to 2000), the results of the joint inversions are within −3 % to 15 % of the single-species inversion for total anthropogenic SO2 emissions and ±2 % for total anthropogenic NOx emissions. However, the differences between the separate and joint inversions are up to 100 % and 40 % in some model grid cells for anthropogenic SO2 and NOx emissions, respectively. In comparison to OMPS observations, NCRMSE from joint inversions (γ in the range of 200 to 2000) is reduced by  45 %– 60 % for SO2 and  38 %– 50 % for NO2, respectively, which is close to the  60 % reduction from the SO2 inversion and the  50 % reduction from the separate NO2 inversion. To obtain posterior emissions for both SO2 and NOx, the computational time for the joint inversion is only about  50 % of the single-species inversions, when the latter are computed sequentially. Moreover, posterior GEOS-Chem SO2 and NO2 show improvements in terms of R when comparing against OMI observations, and the increase in posterior GEOS-Chem NO2 negative NMB is ascribed to the fact that the average of OMPS NO2 over China is smaller than the OMI counterpart. Above all, the posterior emission increases the GEOS-Chem simulated spatial distributions of SO2 and NO2.

Both data quality control and spatially balancing the cost function play an important role for constraining SO2 emissions. OMPS SO2 retrievals over the regions where emissions are small are removed as VCDs are comparable to retrieval errors. A sensitivity study shows that if these data are included it will lead to artifacts in the posterior SO2 emission spatial distribution. Due to cloud screening, the number of OMPS SO2 retrievals over the Sichuan Basin is much lower than that over the North China Plain, which will lead to underconstraining over the Sichuan Basin if the observation error is assumed spatially constant. When the observation error is set based on the number of observations, the artifacts are avoided.

To investigate the impacts of the uncertainty of NH3 emissions on posterior SO2 and NOx emissions, several inverse modeling experiments are conducted by setting prior NH3 emissions to 50 % and 20 % of their original values. The reduction of NH3 emissions can lead to a larger decrease in posterior NOx emissions and a smaller decrease in SO2 emissions in separate assimilations, which is ascribed to the fact that NO2 lifetime is more than the SO2 affected by the change in NH3 emissions. The impacts of NH3 emissions uncertainty on both posterior SO2 and NOx emissions in joint assimilations are stronger than separate assimilations.

Large SO2 emissions are mainly produced over the Sichuan Basin and the North China Plain, while AOD responses to the changes in SO2 emissions are quite different over the two regions. The reduction in SO2 emissions can effectively decrease AOD over the Sichuan Basin, while AOD declines only slightly over the North China Plain, which can be ascribed to (1) nitrate rather than sulfate being dominant over the North China Plain and (2) the reduction of SO2 emissions facilitating the formation of additional nitrate. AOD over the North China Plain is mainly determined by NOx and NH3 emissions rather than SO2 emissions.

All emissions are constrained on the monthly scale and at the coarse spatial resolution of 2×2.5 in this study, as OMPS observations are provided once per day at resolutions as coarse as 50 km×50 km at nadir and 50 km×190 km at edge and the 4D-Var data assimilation at finer spatial resolution (on the order of 0.1) would be computationally prohibitive. The approach, however, has the potential for optimizing emissions at daily to weekly scale and in fine spatial resolution (on order of  10 km) from future satellite observations at high spatial and temporal resolutions. In particular, TEMPO (monitoring North America), GEMS (monitoring East Asia), and Sentinel-4 (monitoring Europe) are to be launched in the next several years, and all of these satellites will provide hourly SO2 and NO2 observations during the daytime with resolutions of 2.1 km×4.4 km, 7 km×8 km, and 8.9 km×11.7 km, respectively. Furthermore, in Part 2 of this work, we develop various downscale methods to apply these coarser-resolution top-down estimates of emissions for air quality forecasts and evaluate the forecasts with surface measurements, both at the finer spatial scale (Wang et al., 2020).

Data availability
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Data availability. 

OMPS SO2 data are available at https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/datasets/OMPS_NPP_NMSO2_L2_2/summary?keywords=omps so2 (last access: 29 May 2020, Yang, 2017a) . OMPS NO2 data are available at https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/datasets/OMPS_NPP_NMNO2_L2_2/summary (last access: 29 May 2020, Yang, 2017b). OMI SO2 data are available at https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/datasets/OMSO2e_003/summary?keywords=omi so2 (last access: 29 May 2020, Krotkov et al., 2015). OMI NO2 data are available at https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/datasets/OMNO2d_003/summary?keywords=omi no2 (last access: 29 May 2020, Krotkov et al., 2019).

Supplement
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Supplement. 

The supplement related to this article is available online at: https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-6631-2020-supplement.

Author contributions
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Author contributions. 

All authors designed the research; YW conducted the research; YW and JW wrote the paper; and XX, DKH, and ZQ contributed to writing.

Competing interests
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Competing interests. 

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Acknowledgements
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Acknowledgements. 

This research is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through the Aura program managed by Kenneth W. Jucks, the ACMAP program (grant numbers: NNX17AF77G and 80NSSC19K0950) managed by Richard Eckman, and the TEMPO project as part of NASA's Earth Venture program (grant number SV7-87011 subcontracted from the Harvard–Smithsonian Observatory to The University of Iowa). We acknowledge the computational support from the High-Performance Computing group at The University of Iowa and Charles O. Stanier from The University of Iowa for insightful comments on the analysis of SO2 and NO2 lifetimes.

Financial support
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Financial support. 

This research has been supported by NASA (grant nos. NNX17AF77G, 80NSSC19K0950, and SV7-87011).

Review statement
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Review statement. 

This paper was edited by Leiming Zhang and reviewed by two anonymous referees.

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The use of OMPS satellite observations to inverse-model SO2 and NO2 emissions is presented through the GEOS-Chem adjoint modeling framework. The work is illustrated over China. The robustness of the results is studied through separate and joint inversions of SO2 and NO2 and the consideration of NH3 uncertainty. Independent validation is performed with OMI SO2 and NO2 data. It is shown that simultaneous inversion of NO2 and SO2 from OMPS provides an effective way to rapidly update emissions.
The use of OMPS satellite observations to inverse-model SO2 and NO2 emissions is presented...
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