Wagner, T., Beirle, S., Benavent, N., Bosch, T., Chan, K. L., Donner, S., Dorner, S., Fayt, C., Friess, U., García Nieto, D., Gielen, C., González Bartolome, D., Gómez, L., Hendrick, F., Henzing, B., Jin, J. L., Lampel, J., Ma, J. Z., Mies, K., Navarro, M., Peters, E., Pinardi, G., Puentedura, O., Pukite, J., Remmers, J., Richter, A., Saiz López, A., Shaiganfar, R., Sihler, H., Van Roozendael, M., Wang, Y., Yela, M. 2019. Is a scaling factor required to obtain closure between measured and modelled atmospheric O-4 absorptions? An assessment of uncertainties of measurements and radiative transfer simulations for 2 selected days during the MAD-CAT campaign. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 12, 5, 2745-2817 DOI: 10.5194/amt-12-2745-2019

In this study the consistency between MAX-DOAS measurements and radiative transfer simulations of the atmospheric O-4 absorption is investigated on 2 mainly cloud-free days during the MAD-CAT campaign in Mainz, Germany, in summer 2013. In recent years several studies indicated that measurements and radiative transfer simulations of the atmospheric O-4 absorption can only be brought into agreement if a so-called scaling factor (<1) is applied to the measured O-4 absorption. However, many studies, including those based on direct sunlight measurements, came to the opposite conclusion, that there is no need for a scaling factor. Up to now, there is no broad consensus for an explanation of the observed discrepancies between measurements and simulations. Previous studies inferred the need for a scaling factor from the comparison of the aerosol optical depths derived from MAX-DOAS O-4 measurements with that derived from coincident sun photometer measurements. In this study a different approach is chosen: the measured O-4 absorption at 360 nm is directly compared to the O-4 absorption obtained from radiative transfer simulations. The atmospheric conditions used as input for the radiative transfer simulations were taken from independent data sets, in particular from sun photometer and ceilometer measurements at the measurement site. This study has three main goals: first all relevant error sources of the spectral analysis, the radiative transfer simulations and the extraction of the input parameters used for the radiative transfer simulations are quantified. One important result obtained from the analysis of synthetic spectra is that the O-4 absorptions derived from the spectral analysis agree within 1% with the corresponding radiative transfer simulations at 360 nm. Based on the results from sensitivity studies, recommendations for optimised settings for the spectral analysis and radiative transfer simulations are given. Second, the measured and simulated results are compared for 2 selected cloud-free days with similar aerosol optical depths but very different aerosol properties. On 18 June, measurements and simulations agree within their (rather large) uncertainties (the ratio of simulated and measured O-4 absorptions is found to be 1.01 +/- 0.16). In contrast, on 8 July measurements and simulations significantly disagree: for the middle period of that day the ratio of simulated and measured O-4 absorptions is found to be 0.82 +/- 0.10, which differs significantly from unity. Thus, for that day a scaling factor is needed to bring measurements and simulations into agreement. Third, recommendations for further intercomparison exercises are derived. One important recommendation for future studies is that aerosol profile data should be measured at the same wavelengths as the MAX-DOAS measurements. Also, the altitude range without profile information close to the ground should be minimised and detailed information on the aerosol optical and/or microphysical properties should be collected and used.

The results for both days are inconsistent, and no explanation for a O-4 scaling factor could be derived in this study. Thus, similar but more extended future studies should be performed, including more measurement days and more instruments. Also, additional wavelengths should be included.