Understanding the influence of combustion on atmospheric CO2 over Europe by using satellite observations of CO2 and reactive trace gases
Abstract. We assess how nitrogen oxides (NOx = NO + NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and formaldehyde (HCHO) can be used as proxies to determine the combustion contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) using satellite observations. We focus our analysis on 2018 when there is a full complement of column data from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (NO2, CO, and HCHO) and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (CO2). We use the nested GEOS-Chem atmospheric chemistry model to relate high-resolution emission inventories over Europe to these atmospheric data, taking into account scene-dependent averaging kernels. We find that that NO2 and CO are the better candidates to identify incomplete combustion and fingerprints of different combustion sectors, but both have their own challenges associated with properly describing their atmospheric chemistry. The secondary source of HCHO from oxidation of biogenic volatile organic compounds, particularly over southern European countries, compromises its use as a proxy for combustion emissions. We find a weak positive correlation between the CO : CO2 inventory ratio and observed column enhancements of ΔCO : ΔCO2 (R < 0.2), suggesting some consistency and linearity in CO chemistry and transport. However, we find a stronger negative correlation between the NOx : CO2 inventory ratio and observed column enhancements of ΔNO2 :ΔCO2 (R < 0.50), driven by non-linear photochemistry. Both of these observed ratios are described well by the GEOS-Chem atmospheric chemistry transport model, providing confidence of the quality of the emission inventory and that the model is a useful tool for interpreting these tracer-tracer ratios. Our results also provide some confidence in our ability to develop a robust method to infer combustion CO2 emission estimates using satellite observations of reactive trace gases that have up until now mostly been used to study surface air quality.
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