1National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
2Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France
3Laboratoire d'Aérologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse, France
4Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
*now at: Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Gif-Sur-Yvette, France
Abstract. Measurements of ozone vertical profiles are valuable for the evaluation of atmospheric chemistry models and contribute to the understanding of the processes controlling the distribution of tropospheric ozone. The longest record of ozone vertical profiles is provided by ozone sondes, which have a typical frequency of 4 to 12 profiles a month. Here we quantify the uncertainty introduced by low frequency sampling in the determination of means and trends. To do this, the high frequency MOZAIC (Measurements of OZone, water vapor, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides by in-service AIrbus airCraft) profiles over airports, such as Frankfurt, have been subsampled at two typical ozone sonde frequencies of 4 and 12 profiles per month. We found the lowest sampling uncertainty on seasonal means at 700 hPa over Frankfurt, with around 5% for a frequency of 12 profiles per month and 10% for a 4 profile-a-month frequency. However the uncertainty can reach up to 15 and 29% at the lowest altitude levels. As a consequence, the sampling uncertainty at the lowest frequency could be higher than the typical 10% accuracy of the ozone sondes and should be carefully considered for observation comparison and model evaluation. We found that the 95% confidence limit on the seasonal mean derived from the subsample created is similar to the sampling uncertainty and suggest to use it as an estimate of the sampling uncertainty. Similar results are found at six other Northern Hemisphere sites. We show that the sampling substantially impacts on the inter-annual variability and the trend derived over the period 1998–2008 both in magnitude and in sign throughout the troposphere. Also, a tropical case is discussed using the MOZAIC profiles taken over Windhoek, Namibia between 2005 and 2008. For this site, we found that the sampling uncertainty in the free troposphere is around 8 and 12% at 12 and 4 profiles a month respectively.