Satellite retrievals of the atmospheric dry-air column-average mole fraction of CO
) based on hyperspectral measurements in appropriate near (NIR) and short wave infrared (SWIR) O
absorption bands can help to answer important questions about the carbon cycle but the precision and accuracy requirements for XCO
data products are demanding. Multiple scattering of light at aerosols and clouds can be a significant error source for XCO
retrievals. Therefore, so called full physics retrieval algorithms were developed aiming to minimize scattering related errors by explicitly fitting scattering related properties such as cloud water/ice content, aerosol optical thickness, cloud height, etc. However, the computational costs for multiple scattering radiative transfer (RT) calculations can be immense. Processing all data of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) can require up to thousands of CPU cores and the next generation of CO
monitoring satellites will produce at least an order of magnitude more data. For this reason, the Fast atmOspheric traCe gAs retrievaL FOCAL has been developed reducing the computational costs by orders of magnitude by approximating multiple scattering effects with an analytic solution of the RT problem of an isotropic scattering layer. Here we confront FOCAL for the first time with measured OCO-2 data and protocol the steps undertaken to transform the input data (most importantly, the OCO-2 radiances) into a validated XCO
data product. This includes preprocessing, adaptation of the noise model, zero level offset correction, post-filtering, bias correction, comparison with the CAMS (Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service) greenhouse gas flux inversion model, comparison with NASA’s operational OCO-2 XCO
product, and validation with ground based Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) data. The systematic temporal and regional differences between FOCAL and the CAMS model have a standard deviation of 1.0 ppm. The standard deviation of the single sounding mismatches amounts to 1.1 ppm which agrees reasonably well with FOCAL’s average reported uncertainty of 1.2 ppm. The large scale XCO
patterns of FOCAL and NASA’s operational OCO-2 product are similar and the most prominent difference is that FOCAL has about three times less soundings due to the inherently poor throughput (11%) of the MODIS (moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer) based cloud screening used by FOCAL’s preprocessor. The standard deviation of the difference between both products is 1.1 ppm. The validation of one year (2015) of FOCAL XCO
data with co-located ground based TCCON observations results in a standard deviations of the site biases of 0.67 ppm (0.78 ppm without bias correction) and an average scatter relative to TCCON of 1.34 ppm (1.60 ppm without bias correction).
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