Tang, Wenfu, Edwards, David P., Emmons, Louisa K., Worden, Helen M., Judd, Laura M., Lamsal, Lok N., Al-Saadi, Jassim A., Janz, Scott J., Crawford, James H., Deeter, Merritt N., Pfister, Gabriele, Buchholz, Rebecca R., Gaubert, Benjamin, and Nowlan, Caroline R. 2021. "Assessing sub-grid variability within satellite pixels over urban regions using airborne mapping spectrometer measurements." Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 14 (6):4639-4655. https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-14-4639-2021
Sub-grid variability (SGV) in atmospheric trace gases within satellite pixels is a key issue in satellite design and interpretation and validation of retrieval products. However, characterizing this variability is challenging due to the lack of independent high-resolution measurements. Here we use tropospheric NO2 vertical column (VC) measurements from the Geostationary Trace gas and Aerosol Sensor Optimization (GeoTASO) airborne instrument with a spatial resolution of about 250 m x 250 m to quantify the normalized SGV (i.e., the standard deviation of the sub-grid GeoTASO values within the sampled satellite pixel divided by the mean of the sub-grid GeoTASO values within the same satellite pixel) for different hypothetical satellite pixel sizes over urban regions. We use the GeoTASO measurements over the Seoul Metropolitan Area (SMA) and Busan region of South Korea during the 2016 KORUS-AQ field campaign and over the Los Angeles Basin, USA, during the 2017 Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) field campaign. We find that the normalized SGV of NO2 VC increases with increasing satellite pixel sizes (from similar to 10 % for 0.5km x 0.5km pixel size to similar to 35% for 25km x 25km pixel size), and this relationship holds for the three study regions, which are also within the domains of upcoming geostationary satellite air quality missions. We also quantify the temporal variability in the retrieved NO2 VC within the same hypothetical satellite pixels (represented by the difference of retrieved values at two or more different times in a day). For a given satellite pixel size, the temporal variability within the same satellite pixels increases with the sampling time difference over the SMA. For a given small (e.g., <= 4 h) sampling time difference within the same satellite pixels, the temporal variability in the retrieved NO2 VC increases with the increasing spatial resolution over the SMA, Busan region, and the Los Angeles Basin. The results of this study have implications for future satellite design and retrieval interpretation and validation when comparing pixel data with local observations. In addition, the analyses presented in this study are equally applicable in model evaluation when comparing model grid values to local observations. Results from the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry (WRF-Chem) model indicate that the normalized satellite SGV of tropospheric NO2 VC calculated in this study could serve as an upper bound to the satellite SGV of other species (e.g., CO and SO2) that share common source(s) with NO2 but have relatively longer lifetime.