1School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
2Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA, USA
3Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
4School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
5Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
6NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, Greenbelt, MD, USA
Abstract. Inverse modeling of CO2 satellite observations to better quantify carbon surface fluxes requires a chemical transport model (CTM) to relate the fluxes to the observed column concentrations. CTM transport error is a major source of uncertainty. We show that its effect can be reduced by using CO satellite observations as additional constraint in a joint CO2-CO inversion. CO is measured from space with high precision, is strongly correlated with CO2, and is more sensitive than CO2 to CTM transport errors on synoptic and smaller scales. Exploiting this constraint requires statistics for the CTM transport error correlation between CO2 and CO, which is significantly different from the correlation between the concentrations themselves. We estimate the error correlation globally and for different seasons by a paired-model method (comparing GEOS-Chem CTM simulations of CO2 and CO columns using different assimilated meteorological data sets for the same meteorological year) and a paired-forecast method (comparing 48- vs. 24-h GEOS-5 CTM forecasts of CO2 and CO columns for the same forecast time). We find strong error correlations (r2>0.5) between CO2 and CO columns over much of the extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere throughout the year, and strong consistency between different methods to estimate the error correlation. Application of the averaging kernels used in the retrieval for thermal IR CO measurements weakens the correlation coefficients by 15% on average (mostly due to variability in the averaging kernels) but preserves the large-scale correlation structure. We present a simple inverse modeling application to demonstrate that CO2-CO error correlations can indeed significantly reduce uncertainty on surface carbon fluxes in a joint CO2-CO inversion vs. a CO2-only inversion.