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Observation of atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide mixing ratios: Tall tower or mountain top stations?

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bamberger I Oney B Brunner D Henne S Leuenberger M Buchmann N Eugster W,
Project CarboCount CH: Quantifying greenhouse gas fluxes and their sensitivity to climate variations: A case study in Central Europe and Switzerland
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Boundary-Layer Meteorology
Volume (Issue) 163
Page(s) 135 - 159
Title of proceedings Boundary-Layer Meteorology
DOI 10.1007/s10546-017-0236-3


Mountain-top observations of greenhouse gas mixing ratios may be an alternative to tall-tower measurements for regional scale source and sink estimation. To investigate the equivalence or limitations of a mountain-top site as compared to a tall-tower site, we used the unique opportunity of comparing in situ measurements of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2)mixing ratios at a mountain top (986mabove sea level, a.s.l.) with measurements from a nearby (distance 28.4 km) tall tower, sampled at almost the same elevation (1009ma.s.l.). Special attention was given to, (i) how local wind statistics and greenhouse gas sources and sinks at the mountain top influence the observations, and (ii) whether mountain-top observations can be used as for those from a tall tower for constraining regional greenhouse gas emissions. Wind statistics at the mountain-top site are clearly more influenced by local flow systems than those at the tall-tower site. Differences in temporal patterns of the greenhouse gas mixing ratios observed at the two sites are mostly related to the influence of local sources and sinks at the mountain-top site. Major influences of local sources can be removed by applying a statistical filter (5th percentile) or a filter that removes periods with unfavourable flow conditions. In the best case, the bias in mixing ratios between the mountain-top and the tall-tower sites after the application of the wind filter was −0.0005 ± 0.0010ppm for methane (September, 0000–0400 UTC) and 0.11±0.18ppm for CO2 (February, 1200–1600 UTC). Temporal fluctuations of atmospheric CH4 and CO2 mixing ratios at both stations also showed good agreement (apart from CO2 during summertime) as determined by moving biweekly Pearson correlation coefficients (up to 0.96 for CO2 and 0.97 for CH4). When only comparingmixing ratiosminimally influenced by local sources (lowbias and high correlation coefficients), our measurements indicate that mountain-top observations are comparable to tall-tower observations.