Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Research article
11 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 11 Dec 2013

A new method for continuous measurements of oceanic and atmospheric N2O, CO and CO2: performance of off-axis integrated cavity output spectroscopy (OA-ICOS) coupled to non-dispersive infrared detection (NDIR)

D. L. Arévalo-Martínez, M. Beyer, M. Krumbholz, I. Piller, A. Kock, T. Steinhoff, A. Körtzinger, and H. W. Bange

Abstract. A new system for continuous, highly resolved oceanic and atmospheric measurements of N2O, CO and CO2 is described. The system is based upon off-axis integrated cavity output spectroscopy (OA-ICOS) and a non-dispersive infrared analyzer (NDIR), both coupled to a Weiss-type equilibrator. Performance of the combined setup was evaluated by testing its precision, accuracy, long-term stability, linearity and response time. Furthermore, the setup was tested during two oceanographic campaigns in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean in order to explore its potential for autonomous deployment onboard voluntary observing ships (VOS). Improved equilibrator response times for N2O (2.5 min) and CO (45 min) were achieved in comparison to response times from similar chamber designs used by previous studies. High stability of the OA-ICOS analyzer was demonstrated by low optimal integration times of 2 and 4 min for N2O and CO respectively, as well as detection limits of < 40 ppt and precision better than 0.3 ppb Hz–1/2. Results from a direct comparison of the method presented here and well-established discrete methods for oceanic N2O and CO2 measurements showed very good consistency. The favorable agreement between underway atmospheric N2O, CO and CO2 measurements and monthly means at Ascension Island (7.96° S 14.4° W) further suggests a reliable operation of the underway setup in the field. The potential of the system as an improved platform for measurements of trace gases was explored by using continuous N2O and CO2 data to characterize the development of the seasonal equatorial upwelling in the Atlantic Ocean during two R/V Maria S. Merian cruises. A similar record of high-resolution CO measurements was simultaneously obtained, offering, for the first time, the possibility of a comprehensive view of the distribution and emissions of these climate-relevant gases in the area studied. The relatively simple underway N2O/CO/CO2 setup is suitable for long-term deployment onboard research and commercial vessels although potential sources of drift, such as cavity temperature, and further technical improvements towards automation, still need to be addressed.