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New satellite-based measurements to quantify the emissions and chemistry of atmospheric volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are precursors of tropospheric ozone and particulate matter, which are the two main components of smog and key climate forcing agents. Tropospheric VOCs also modulate the abundance of the hydroxyl radical (OH), which is the atmosphere’s main oxidizing agent and the primary sink for methane and other pollutants and greenhouse gases. Our ability to accurately model and predict these effects has been limited by the scarce observations available to characterize VOC sources and understand their atmospheric chemistry. Here I will present our group’s recent work developing new satellite-based VOC measurements in the thermal infrared, and using these observations to better constrain VOC sources and their impacts. I will first discuss isoprene, which is emitted naturally by plants and the most important atmospheric VOC. Combining the first direct space-based measurements of this species with concurrent satellite-based measurements of its oxidation product formaldehyde provides a new window into ecosystem-atmosphere exchange and changes in the atmosphere’s oxidizing capacity over time. I will also present some of our ongoing work developing retrieval capabilities for a suite of other anthropogenic VOCs with both anthropogenic and natural sources.

Event series  Atmospheric Physics SeminarsNoble Seminar Series