1Institut für Mathematik, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
2MPI for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
3Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
4Institut für Umweltphysik, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
5Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge/MA, USA
Abstract. With the increasing availability of observational data from different sources at a global level, joint analysis of these data is becoming especially attractive. For such an analysis – oftentimes with little prior knowledge about local and global interactions between the different observational variables at hand – an exploratory, data-driven analysis of the data may be of particular relevance.
In the present work we used generalized additive models (GAM) in an exemplary study of spatio-temporal patterns in the tropospheric NO2-distribution derived from GOME satellite observations (1996 to 2001) at global scale. We focused on identifying correlations between NO2 and local wind fields, a quantity which is of particular interest in the analysis of spatio-temporal interactions. Formulating general functional, parametric relationships between the observed NO2 distribution and local wind fields, however, is difficult – if not impossible. So, rather than following a model-based analysis testing the data for predefined hypotheses (assuming, for example, sinusoidal seasonal trends), we used a GAM with non-parametric model terms to learn this functional relationship between NO2 and wind directly from the data.
The NO2 observations showed to be affected by wind-dominated processes over large areas. We estimated the extent of areas affected by specific NO2 emission sources, and were able to highlight likely atmospheric transport "pathways". General temporal trends which were also part of our model – weekly, seasonal and linear changes – showed to be in good agreement with previous studies and alternative ways of analysing the time series. Overall, using a non-parametric model provided favorable means for a rapid inspection of this large spatio-temporal NO2 data set, with less bias than parametric approaches, and allowing to visualize dynamical processes of the NO2 distribution at a global scale.