The high-frequency response correction of eddy covariance fluxes – Part 1: An experimental approach and its interdependence with the time-lag estimation

Peltola, Olli; Aslan, Toprak; Ibrom, Andreas; Nemitz, Eiko; Rannik, Üllar; Mammarella, Ivan

The eddy covariance (EC) technique has emerged as the prevailing method to observe the ecosystem–atmosphere exchange of gases, heat and momentum. EC measurements require rigorous data processing to derive the fluxes that can be used to analyse exchange processes at the ecosystem–atmosphere interface. Here we show that two common post-processing steps (time-lag estimation via cross-covariance maximisation and correction for limited frequency response of the EC measurement system) are interrelated, and this should be accounted for when processing EC gas flux data. These findings are applicable to EC systems employing closed- or enclosed-path gas analysers which can be approximated to be linear first-order sensors. These EC measurement systems act as low-pass filters on the time series of the scalar inline-formulaχ (e.g. inline-formulaCO2, inline-formulaH2O), and this induces a time lag (inline-formulatlpf) between vertical wind speed (inline-formulaw) and scalar inline-formulaχ time series which is additional to the travel time of the gas signal in the sampling line (tube, filters). Time-lag estimation via cross-covariance maximisation inadvertently accounts also for inline-formulatlpf and hence overestimates the travel time in the sampling line. This results in a phase shift between the time series of inline-formulaw and inline-formulaχ, which distorts the measured cospectra between inline-formulaw and inline-formulaχ and hence has an effect on the correction for the dampening of the EC flux signal at high frequencies. This distortion can be described with a transfer function related to the phase shift (inline-formulaHp) which is typically neglected when processing EC flux data. Based on analyses using EC data from two contrasting measurement sites, we show that the low-pass-filtering-induced time lag increases approximately linearly with the time constant of the low-pass filter, and hence the importance of inline-formulaHp in describing the high-frequency flux loss increases as well. Incomplete description of these processes in EC data processing algorithms results in flux biases of up to 10 %, with the largest biases observed for short towers due to the prevalence of small-scale turbulence. Based on these findings, it is suggested that spectral correction methods implemented in EC data processing algorithms are revised to account for the influence of low-pass-filtering-induced time lag.

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Peltola, Olli / Aslan, Toprak / Ibrom, Andreas / et al: The high-frequency response correction of eddy covariance fluxes – Part 1: An experimental approach and its interdependence with the time-lag estimation. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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