Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 4485-4504, 2009
© Author(s) 2009. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
14 Jul 2009
Temporal and spatial variability of glyoxal as observed from space
M. Vrekoussis1, F. Wittrock1, A. Richter1, and J. P. Burrows1,2 1Institute of Environmental Physics and Remote Sensing, IUP, University of Bremen, NW1, P.O. Box 33 04 40, 28334 Bremen, Germany
2Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
Abstract. Glyoxal, CHO.CHO, is produced during the oxidation of volatile organic compounds, VOC, released by anthropogenic activities, biogenic processes and biomass burning. It has a short chemical lifetime of a few hours in the boundary layer and lower troposphere and therefore serves as an indicator and a marker of photochemical hot-spots and their response to changing atmospheric conditions around the globe. For this reason more than five years of CHO.CHO observations (2002–2007), retrieved from the radiances measured by the satellite instrument SCIAMACHY, were obtained and analyzed both temporally and spatially. The largest columns of CHO.CHO (>6.1014 molec cm−2) are found in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, associated with high biological activity and the plumes from vegetation fires. The majority of the identified hot spots are characterized by a well-defined seasonality: the highest values being observed during the warm and dry periods as a result of the enhanced biogenic, primarily isoprene, emissions and/or biomass burning from natural or man-made fires. The regions influenced by anthropogenic pollution also encounter enhanced amounts of glyoxal. The ratio "CHO.CHO to HCHO, RGF" over the biogenically influenced photochemical hot-spots is approximately 0.045. For the studied regions, the presence of pyrogenic and anthropogenic emissions increases and decreases this number respectively. Although the 2002–2007 period of observation is limited, over the northeastern Asia a significant annual increase in CHO.CHO in addition to a seasonal cycle is reported.

Citation: Vrekoussis, M., Wittrock, F., Richter, A., and Burrows, J. P.: Temporal and spatial variability of glyoxal as observed from space, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 4485-4504,, 2009.
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