Articles | Volume 9, issue 13
14 Jul 2009
 | 14 Jul 2009

Temporal and spatial variability of glyoxal as observed from space

M. Vrekoussis, F. Wittrock, A. Richter, and J. P. Burrows

Abstract. Glyoxal, CHO.CHO, is produced during the oxidation of volatile organic compounds, VOC, released by anthropogenic activities, biogenic processes and biomass burning. It has a short chemical lifetime of a few hours in the boundary layer and lower troposphere and therefore serves as an indicator and a marker of photochemical hot-spots and their response to changing atmospheric conditions around the globe. For this reason more than five years of CHO.CHO observations (2002–2007), retrieved from the radiances measured by the satellite instrument SCIAMACHY, were obtained and analyzed both temporally and spatially. The largest columns of CHO.CHO (>6.1014 molec cm−2) are found in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, associated with high biological activity and the plumes from vegetation fires. The majority of the identified hot spots are characterized by a well-defined seasonality: the highest values being observed during the warm and dry periods as a result of the enhanced biogenic, primarily isoprene, emissions and/or biomass burning from natural or man-made fires. The regions influenced by anthropogenic pollution also encounter enhanced amounts of glyoxal. The ratio "CHO.CHO to HCHO, RGF" over the biogenically influenced photochemical hot-spots is approximately 0.045. For the studied regions, the presence of pyrogenic and anthropogenic emissions increases and decreases this number respectively. Although the 2002–2007 period of observation is limited, over the northeastern Asia a significant annual increase in CHO.CHO in addition to a seasonal cycle is reported.

Final-revised paper