Biomass burning emission estimates inferred from satellite column measurements of HCHO: Sensitivity to co-emitted aerosol and injection height

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Abstract

[1] We infer monthly regional biomass burning emissions of formaldehyde (HCHO) during 2006 from space-borne column measurements of HCHO from the SCIAMACHY instrument over Canada, boreal Asia, South America, southern Africa, and Indonesia. We remove the influence of biogenic volatile organic compounds using an offline chemical mechanism. We quantify the sensitivity of our emission estimates to aerosol single scattering albedo, ω, indicative of fresh (ω = 0.8) and aged (ω > 0.9) aerosol, and the relative vertical distribution of the aerosol and HCHO, both which compromise the interpretation of space-based HCHO columns. For our control calculation we assume freshly-emitted gases and aerosols that are mainly confined to the boundary layer. Associated posterior emissions are generally lower than the prior emissions except over Canada and boreal Asia during northern hemisphere summer months. Accounting for faster vertical mixing results in posterior emissions 20%–100% higher than the corresponding control calculation, and consequently more consistent with the prior. Assuming an aged aerosol generally results in a 20% decrease in posterior emissions relative to prior values. Based on the range of posterior estimates from our sensitivity analyses, not accounting for uncertainties associated with the underlying gas-phase and heterogeneous chemistry, we estimate HCHO emission uncertainties are typically 20%–30% but can be up to 300% in extreme cases.

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