We review the progress of tropospheric trace gas observations and address the need for additional measurement capabilities as recommended by the National Research Council. Tropospheric measurements show pollution in the Northern Hemisphere as a result of fossil fuel burning and a strong seasonal dependence with the largest amounts of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in the winter and spring. In the summer, when photochemistry is most intense, photochemically generated ozone is found in large concentrations over and downwind from where anthropogenic sources are largest, such as the eastern United States and eastern China. In the tropics and the subtropics, where photon flux is strong throughout the year, trace gas concentrations are driven by the abundance of the emissions. The largest single tropical source of pollution is biomass burning, as can be seen readily in carbon monoxide measurements, but lightning and biogenic trace gases may also contribute to trace gas variability. Although substantive progress has been achieved in seasonal and global mapping of a few tropospheric trace gases, satellite trace gas observations with considerably better temporal and spatial resolution are essential to forecasting air quality at the spatial and temporal scales required by policy makers. The concurrent use of atmospheric composition measurements for both scientific and operational purposes is a new paradigm for the atmospheric chemistry community. The examples presented illustrate both the promise and challenge of merging satellite information with in situ observations in state-of-the-art data assimilation models.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Footnotes

NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana

NOAA/NESDIS/STAR, Madison, Wisconsin

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania