From photon paths to pollution plumes: better radiative transfer calculations to monitor NOx emissions with OMI and TROPOMI

Alba Lorente Delgado

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Nitrogen oxides (NOx = NO + NO2) play an important role in atmospheric chemistry, therefore affecting air quality and Earth's radiative forcing, which impact public health, ecosystems and climate. Remote sensing from satellites in the ultraviolet and visible (UV-Vis) spectral range results in measurements of tropospheric NO2 column densities with high spatial and temporal resolution that allow, among many applications, to monitor NO2 concentrations and to estimate NOx emissions. NO2 satellite retrievals have improved extensively in the last decade, together with the increased need of having traceable characterization of the uncertainties associated with the NO2 satellite measurements. The spatial resolution of the satellite instruments is improving such that the observed NO2 pollution can now be traced back to emissions from individual cities, power plants, and transportation sectors. However, the uncertainty of satellite NO2 retrievals is still considerable and mainly related to the adequacy of the assumptions made on the state of the atmosphere. In this thesis we have improved the critical assumptions and our understanding in the radiative transfer modelling for NO2 satellite measurements, and we use the new TROPOMI NO2 measurements to quantify daily NOx emissions from a single urban hot spot. The work presented in this thesis contributes to the satellite remote sensing community (1) because of the improvement of the satellite retrieval and the knowledge of its main uncertainty sources (Chapter 2, 3 and 4), and (2) because of the application of TROPOMI NO2 measurements for the first time to infer daily NOx emissions at urban scales (Chapter 5).                          

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Krol, Maarten, Promotor
  • Boersma, Folkert, Co-promotor
Award date23 May 2019
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463439329
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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