Comparison of GOME tropospheric NO2 columns with NO2 profiles deduced from ground-based in situ measurements
Abstract. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) vertical tropospheric column densities (VTCs) retrieved from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) are compared to coincident ground-based tropospheric NO2 columns. The ground-based columns are deduced from in situ measurements at different altitudes in the Alps for 1997 to June 2003, yielding a unique long-term comparison of GOME NO2 VTC data retrieved by a collaboration of KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) and BIRA/IASB (Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy) with independently derived tropospheric NO2 profiles. A first comparison relates the GOME retrieved tropospheric columns to the tropospheric columns obtained by integrating the ground-based NO2 measurements. For a second comparison, the tropospheric profiles constructed from the ground-based measurements are first multiplied with the averaging kernel (AK) of the GOME retrieval. The second approach makes the comparison independent from the a priori NO2 profile used in the GOME retrieval. This allows splitting the total difference between the column data sets into two contributions: one that is due to differences between the a priori and the ground-based NO2 profile shapes, and another that can be attributed to uncertainties in both the remaining retrieval parameters (such as, e.g., surface albedo or aerosol concentration) and the ground-based in situ NO2 profiles. For anticyclonic clear sky conditions the comparison indicates a good agreement between the columns (n=157, R=0.70/0.74 for the first/second comparison approach, respectively). The mean relative difference (with respect to the ground-based columns) is −7% with a standard deviation of 40% and GOME on average slightly underestimating the ground-based columns. Both data sets show a similar seasonal behaviour with a distinct maximum of spring NO2 VTCs. Further analysis indicates small GOME columns being systematically smaller than the ground-based ones. The influence of different shapes in the a priori and the ground-based NO2 profile is analysed by considering AK information. It is moderate and indicates similar shapes of the profiles for clear sky conditions. Only for large GOME columns, differences between the profile shapes explain the larger part of the relative difference. In contrast, the other error sources give rise to the larger relative differences found towards smaller columns. Further, for the clear sky cases, errors from different sources are found to compensate each other partially. The comparison for cloudy cases indicates a poorer agreement between the columns (n=60, R=0.61). The mean relative difference between the columns is 60% with a standard deviation of 118% and GOME on average overestimating the ground-based columns. The clear improvement after inclusion of AK information (n=60, R=0.87) suggests larger errors in the a priori NO2 profiles under cloudy conditions and demonstrates the importance of using accurate profile information for (partially) clouded scenes.