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Open AccessArticle

Can We Measure a COVID-19-Related Slowdown in Atmospheric CO2 Growth? Sensitivity of Total Carbon Column Observations

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, IMK-IFU, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
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Remote Sens. 2020, 12(15), 2387; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12152387
Received: 17 June 2020 / Revised: 17 July 2020 / Accepted: 21 July 2020 / Published: 24 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution)
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing projected annual CO2 emission reductions up to −8% for 2020. This approximately matches the reductions required year on year to fulfill the Paris agreement. We pursue the question whether related atmospheric concentration changes may be detected by the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON), and brought into agreement with bottom-up emission-reduction estimates. We present a mathematical framework to derive annual growth rates from observed column-averaged carbon dioxide (XCO2) including uncertainties. The min–max range of TCCON growth rates for 2012–2019 was [2.00, 3.27] ppm/yr with a largest one-year increase of 1.07 ppm/yr for 2015/16 caused by El Niño. Uncertainties are 0.38 [0.28, 0.44] ppm/yr limited by synoptic variability, including a 0.05 ppm/yr contribution from single-measurement precision. TCCON growth rates are linked to a UK Met Office forecast of a COVID-19-related reduction of −0.32 ppm yr−2 in 2020 for Mauna Loa. The separation of TCCON-measured growth rates vs. the reference forecast (without COVID-19) is discussed in terms of detection delay. A 0.6 [0.4, 0.7]-yr delay is caused by the impact of synoptic variability on XCO2, including a ≈1-month contribution from single-measurement precision. A hindrance for the detection of the COVID-19-related growth rate reduction in 2020 is the ±0.57 ppm/yr uncertainty for the forecasted reference case (without COVID-19). Only assuming the ongoing growth rate reductions increasing year-on-year by −0.32 ppm yr−2 would allow a discrimination of TCCON measurements vs. the unperturbed forecast and its uncertainty—with a 2.4 [2.2, 2.5]-yr delay. Using no forecast but the max–min range of the TCCON-observed growth rates for discrimination only leads to a factor ≈2 longer delay. Therefore, the forecast uncertainties for annual growth rates must be reduced. This requires improved terrestrial ecosystem models and ocean observations to better quantify the land and ocean sinks dominating interannual variability. View Full-Text
Keywords: COVID-19; lockdown; fossil fuel emission reduction; atmospheric CO2 growth; total carbon column observations; TCCON; column-averaged CO2; XCO2; annual growth rate; detection delay; ocean and land carbon sinks; interannual variability; climate variability; El Niño; intra-annual variability; synoptic variability; confidence; bootstrap resampling COVID-19; lockdown; fossil fuel emission reduction; atmospheric CO2 growth; total carbon column observations; TCCON; column-averaged CO2; XCO2; annual growth rate; detection delay; ocean and land carbon sinks; interannual variability; climate variability; El Niño; intra-annual variability; synoptic variability; confidence; bootstrap resampling
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MDPI and ACS Style

Sussmann, R.; Rettinger, M. Can We Measure a COVID-19-Related Slowdown in Atmospheric CO2 Growth? Sensitivity of Total Carbon Column Observations. Remote Sens. 2020, 12, 2387.

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