Reanalysis of tropospheric CO trends: Effects of the 1997–1998 wildfires



[1] For the past decade NOAA/CMDL has measured tropospheric carbon monoxide from a global network of sampling sites. The resulting data set provides an internally consistent picture of CO in the lower troposphere that is used to study its distribution, trends and budget. All measurements were referenced to the so-called CMDL Reference Scale (WMO 88), which was based on two sets of primary standards produced at CMDL during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A long-term downward trend in tropospheric CO during the 1990s, overlaid with shorter periods of increase and decrease, was indicated from the air measurements. Primary standards prepared in 1999 and 2000 suggested that the scale had drifted upward over time, and that mixing ratios determined in field samples were underestimated. We have applied a time dependent correction to our CO measurements based upon four sets of primary standards. In this paper, we describe the revision of the CO scale and our atmospheric measurements. A reanalysis of tropospheric trends through 2001 was based on the revised global data set. The results support previous reports of a decline in tropospheric CO. This decrease is now found largely confined to the Northern Hemisphere, where dramatic reductions in fossil fuel emissions have reportedly occurred. In contrast, no significant trend is determined in the Southern Hemisphere between 1991 and 2001. Globally averaged CO exhibits large interannual variability, primarily reflecting year to year changes in emissions from biomass burning. Dramatic enhancements of tropospheric CO in 1997 and 1998 resulted from exceptionally widespread wildfires which provided a strong pulse of CO to the atmosphere. In years of extensive boreal biomass burning, fire emissions can perturb CO levels over regional and global scales, disturbing oxidation/reduction chemistry in the troposphere.