1Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique/Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Ecole Polytechnique, 91128 Palaiseau, France
2Onera – The French Aerospace Lab, Centre Midi-Pyrénées, 31055 Toulouse Cedex 4, France
3Department of Chemistry, University of Waterloo, Ontario, N2L3G1, Canada
4Department of Chemistry, University of York, Heslington, York, YO105DD, UK
Abstract. Major limitations of our present knowledge of the global distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere are the uncertainty in atmospheric transport and the sparseness of in situ concentration measurements. Limb viewing spaceborne sounders such as the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Fourier transform spectrometer (ACE-FTS) offer a vertical resolution of a few kilometres for profiles, which is much better than currently flying or planned nadir sounding instruments can achieve. After having demonstrated the feasibility of obtaining CO2 vertical profiles in the 5–25 km altitude range with an accuracy of about 2 ppm in a previous study, we present here the results of five years of ACE-FTS observations in terms of monthly mean profiles of CO2 averaged over 10° latitude bands for northern mid-latitudes. These results are compared with in-situ aircraft measurements and with simulations from two different air transport models. Key features of the measured altitude distribution of CO2 are shown to be accurately reproduced by the ACE-FTS retrievals: variation in altitude of the seasonal cycle amplitude and extrema, seasonal change of the vertical gradient, and mean growth rate. We show that small but significant differences from model simulations could result from an over estimation of the model circulation strength during the northern hemisphere spring. Coupled with column measurements from a nadir viewing instrument, it is expected that occultation measurements will bring useful constraints to the surface carbon flux determination.