Publication Details

Pommier, M., Clerbaux, C., Coheur, P., Mahieu, E., Muller, J., Paton-Walsh, C., Stavrakou, T. & Vigouroux, C. (2016). HCOOH distributions from IASI for 2008-2014: comparison with ground-based FTIR measurements and a global chemistry-transport model. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 16 (14), 8963-8981.


Formic acid (HCOOH) is one of the most abundant volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere. It is a major contributor to rain acidity in remote areas. There are, however, large uncertainties on the sources and sinks of HCOOH and therefore HCOOH is misrepresented by global chemistry-transport models. This work presents global distributions from 2008 to 2014 as derived from the measurements of the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI), based on conversion factors between brightness temperature differences and representative retrieved total columns over seven regions: Northern Africa, southern Africa, Amazonia, Atlantic, Australia, Pacific, and Russia. The dependence of the measured HCOOH signal on the thermal contrast is taken into account in the conversion method. This conversion presents errors lower than 20 % for total columns ranging between 0.5 and 1 x 1016 molec cm−2 but reaches higher values, up to 78 %, for columns that are lower than 0.3 x 1016 molec cm−2. Signatures from biomass burning events are highlighted, such as in the Southern Hemisphere and in Russia, as well as biogenic emission sources, e.g., over the eastern USA. A comparison between 2008 and 2014 with ground-based Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) measurements obtained at four locations (Maido and Saint-Denis at La Réunion, Jungfraujoch, and Wollongong) is shown. Although IASI columns are found to correlate well with FTIR data, a large bias (> 100 %) is found over the two sites at La Réunion. A better agreement is found at Wollongong with a negligible bias. The comparison also highlights the difficulty of retrieving total columns from IASI measurements over mountainous regions such as Jungfraujoch. A comparison of the retrieved columns with the global chemistry-transport model IMAGESv2 is also presented, showing good representation of the seasonal and interannual cycles over America, Australia, Asia, and Siberia. A global model underestimation of the distribution and a misrepresentation of the seasonal cycle over India are also found. A small positive trend in the IASI columns is observed over Australia, Amazonia, and India over the 2008-2014 period (from 0.7 to 1.5 % year−1), while a decrease of ∼ 0.8 % year−1 is measured over Siberia.

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