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Recent advances in measurement techniques for atmospheric carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide observations

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Zellweger Christoph, Steinbrecher Rainer, Laurent Olivier, Lee Haeyoung, Kim Sumin, Emmenegger Lukas, Steinbacher Martin, Buchmann Brigitte,
Project ICOS-CH Phase 2
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques
Volume (Issue) 12(11)
Page(s) 5863 - 5878
Title of proceedings Atmospheric Measurement Techniques
DOI 10.5194/amt-12-5863-2019

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Abstract. Carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are two key parameters in the observation of the atmosphere, relevant to air quality and climate change, respectively. For CO, various analytical techniques have been in use over the last few decades. In contrast, N2O was mainly measured using gas chromatography (GC) with an electron capture detector (ECD). In recent years, new spectroscopic methods have become available which are suitable for both CO and N2O. These include infrared (IR) spectroscopic techniques such as cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS), off-axis integrated cavity output spectroscopy (OA-ICOS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Corresponding instruments became recently commercially available and are increasingly used at atmospheric monitoring stations. We analysed results obtained through performance audits conducted within the framework of the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) quality management system of the World Meteorology Organization (WMO). These results reveal that current spectroscopic measurement techniques have clear advantages with respect to data quality objectives compared to more traditional methods for measuring CO and N2O. Further, they allow for a smooth continuation of historic CO and N2O time series. However, special care is required concerning potential water vapour interference on the CO amount fraction reported by near-IR CRDS instruments. This is reflected in the results of parallel measurement campaigns, which clearly indicate that drying the sample air leads to an improved accuracy of CO measurements with such near-IR CRDS instruments.