Investigation and amelioration of long-term instrumental drifts in water vapor and nitrous oxide measurements from the Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) and their implications for studies of variability and trends.

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From: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics(Vol. 21, Issue 20)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Article
Length: 662 words

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Abstract :

The Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS), launched on NASA's Aura spacecraft in 2004, measures vertical profiles of the abundances of key atmospheric species from the upper troposphere to the mesosphere with daily near-global coverage. We review the first 15 years of the record of H.sub.2 O and N.sub.2 O measurements from the MLS 190 GHz subsystem (along with other 190 GHz information), with a focus on their long-term stability, largely based on comparisons with measurements from other sensors. These comparisons generally show signs of an increasing drift in the MLS "version 4" (v4) H.sub.2 O record starting around 2010. Specifically, comparisons with v4.1 measurements from the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Fourier Transform Spectrometer (ACE-FTS) indicate a â¼ 2 %-3 % per decade drift over much of the stratosphere, increasing to as much as â¼ 7 % per decade around 46 hPa. Larger drifts, of around 7 %-11 % per decade, are seen in comparisons to balloon-borne frost point hygrometer measurements in the lower stratosphere. Microphysical calculations considering the formation of polar stratospheric clouds in the Antarctic winter stratosphere corroborate a drift in MLS v4 water vapor measurements in that region and season. In contrast, comparisons with the Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry (SABER) instrument on NASA's Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission, and with ground-based Water Vapor Millimeter-wave Spectrometer (WVMS) instruments, do not show statistically significant drifts. However, the uncertainty in these comparisons is large enough to encompass most of the drifts identified in other comparisons. In parallel, the MLS v4 N.sub.2 O product is shown to be generally decreasing over the same period (when an increase in stratospheric N.sub.2 O is expected, reflecting a secular growth in emissions), with a more pronounced drift in the lower stratosphere than that found for H.sub.2 O. Comparisons to ACE-FTS and to MLS N.sub.2 O observations in a different spectral region, with the latter available from 2004 to 2013, indicate an altitude-dependent drift, growing from 5 % per decade or less in the mid-stratosphere to as much as 15 % per decade in the lower stratosphere. Detailed investigations of the behavior of the MLS 190 GHz subsystem reveal a drift in its "sideband fraction" (the relative sensitivity of the 190 GHz receiver to the two different parts of the microwave spectrum that it observes). Our studies indicate that sideband fraction drift accounts for much of the observed changes in the MLS H.sub.2 O product and some portion of the changes seen in N.sub.2 O. The 190 GHz sideband fraction drift has been corrected in the new "version 5" (v5) MLS algorithms, which have now been used to reprocess the entire MLS record. As a result of this correction, the MLS v5 H.sub.2 O record shows no statistically significant drifts compared to ACE-FTS. However, statistically significant drifts remain between MLS v5 and frost point measurements, although they are reduced. Drifts in v5 N.sub.2 O are about half the size of those in v4 but remain statistically significant. Scientists are advised to use MLS v5 data in all future studies. Quantification of interregional and seasonal to annual changes in MLS H.sub.2 O and N.sub.2 O will not be affected by the drift. However, caution is advised in studies using the MLS record to examine long-term (multiyear) variability and trends in either of these species, especially N.sub.2 O; such studies should only be undertaken in consultation with the MLS team. Importantly, this drift does not affect any of the MLS observations made in other spectral regions such as O.sub.3, HCl, CO, ClO, or temperature.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A679078114