Validation of satellite formaldehyde (HCHO) retrievals using observations from 12 aircraft campaigns

Zhu, Lei; González Abad, Gonzalo; Nowlan, Caroline R.; Chan Miller, Christopher; Chance, Kelly; Apel, Eric C.; DiGangi, Joshua P.; Fried, Alan; Hanisco, Thomas F.; Hornbrook, Rebecca S.; Hu, Lu; Kaiser, Jennifer; Keutsch, Frank N.; Permar, Wade; St. Clair, Jason M.; Wolfe, Glenn M.

Formaldehyde (HCHO) has been measured from space for more than 2 decades. Owing to its short atmospheric lifetime, satellite HCHO data are used widely as a proxy of volatile organic compounds (VOCs; please refer to Appendix A for abbreviations and acronyms), providing constraints on underlying emissions and chemistry. However, satellite HCHO products from different satellite sensors using different algorithms have received little validation so far. The accuracy and consistency of HCHO retrievals remain largely unclear. Here we develop a validation platform for satellite HCHO retrievals using in situ observations from 12 aircraft campaigns with a chemical transport model (GEOS-Chem) as the intercomparison method. Application to the NASA operational OMI HCHO product indicates negative biases (inline-formula−44.5 % to inline-formula−21.7 %) under high-HCHO conditions, while it indicates high biases (inline-formula+66.1 % to inline-formula+112.1 %) under low-HCHO conditions. Under both conditions, HCHO a priori vertical profiles are likely not the main driver of the biases. By providing quick assessment of systematic biases in satellite products over large domains, the platform facilitates, in an iterative process, optimization of retrieval settings and the minimization of retrieval biases. It is also complementary to localized validation efforts based on ground observations and aircraft spirals.

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Zhu, Lei / González Abad, Gonzalo / Nowlan, Caroline R. / et al: Validation of satellite formaldehyde (HCHO) retrievals using observations from 12 aircraft campaigns. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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