Copernicus: Sentinel-5P continued

Findings highlight crucial new applications

- Satellites offer an important new methane measurement tool that can cover large areas faster and more frequently than conventional methods. They can also provide data on gas producing regions around the world that are impossible to reach by aircraft or from the ground.

- "Advances in satellite technology and data analytics are making it possible to generate regular and robust information on methane emissions from oil and gas operations even from the most remote corners of the world," said Mark Brownstein, EDF senior vice president for Energy. "It's our goal to use this new data to help companies and countries find, measure, and reduce methane emissions further and faster, and enable the public to both track and compare progress."

- Launched in 2017, the TROPOMI instrument on the Sentinel-5P satellite used in the study offers more precise measurements, higher resolution and better coverage than its forerunners. It is part of an emerging ecosystem of methane-tracking satellites with a growing range of capabilities, including one with even higher precision currently being developed by EDF subsidiary MethaneSAT LLC for launch in 2022. MethaneSAT will track oil and gas methane around the globe on a near-weekly basis, identifying and measuring smaller emission events and more widely dispersed sources not discernable with current technology.

Permian emissions challenge

- The Permian Basin has emerged as one of the world's most prolific oil-producing regions in recent years, producing 3.5 million barrels of crude and 11 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (about 30% and 10% of the respective U.S. totals in 2018).

- Today's new peer-reviewed findings validate a set of ground-based and airborne measurements released two weeks ago by EDF's PermianMAP initiative, which found methane escaping from oil and gas operations in the most productive part of the basin at a rate of 3.5%. That project is currently collecting a year's worth of methane data across a 10,000 km2 study area within the basin via fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, towers, and ground-based mobile sensors.

- High leakage rates in the Permian imply the opportunity to greatly reduce methane emissions in this sprawling oil and gas producing region, through better infrastructure design and development, more effective operations and better regulation at both the state and federal levels.

- The TROPOMI study uses the latest technology and methods available to analyze and present data, a process that currently takes a great deal of time and effort. But researchers are quickly learning how to automate and accelerate these complex calculations. The MethaneSAT project, for example, is expected to deliver data based on weekly measurements in near-real time.

- "Early TROPOMI images showed that the Permian was one of the largest methane hotspots in the U.S. But the satellite was new, and data analysis hadn't even started. Quantifying emissions and deriving a leak rate for a huge area was a big, hands-on effort, even with the best tools," said EDF's Dr. Ritesh Gautam, one of the study's lead researchers. "Studies like this are expanding those boundaries. MethaneSAT and missions that follow will be more capable, delivering more data much faster, in ways that are more actionable by stakeholders."

• April 24, 2020: Lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus have been recently linked with cleaner air quality over Europe and China. New images, from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, from the European Union Copernicus program, now show some cities across India seeing levels drop by around 40–50% owing to its nationwide quarantine. 52)

- On 25 March 2020, the Indian government placed its population of more than 1.3 billion citizens under lockdown in an effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease. All non-essential shops, markets and places of worship were closed with only essential services including water, electricity and health services remaining active.

- New satellite maps, produced using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show averaged nitrogen dioxide concentrations over India from 1 January to 24 March 2020 and 25 March (the first day of the lockdown) to 20 April 2020 – compared to the same time-frame as last year.


Figure 73: These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 1 January to 24 March 2020 and 25 March (the first day of the lockdown) to 20 April 2020 – compared to the same time-frame as last year. The significant reduction in the concentrations can be seen over major cities across India. Mumbai and Delhi saw drops of around 40-50% compared to the same time last year. A trail of nitrogen dioxide emissions from maritime traffic can be seen as a faint line over the Indian Ocean (visible in the bottom of the image.) Shipping lanes appear as straight lines owing to commercial ships following more or less the same route. The concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in our atmosphere vary widely on a daily basis. Variations owing to weather conditions make it necessary to average data over substantial periods of time – allowing for more accurate assessments to be made (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, says, "Thanks to the TROPOMI instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, we are able to observe such high reductions in concentrations in Europe, China, and now India because of the national quarantine measures put in place.

- "What is interesting in these new maps are the high values of nitrogen dioxide concentrations over northeast India. Our analysis shows that these clusters are directly linked with the locations of the ongoing coal-based power plants. The largest power station in India, the Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station, shows a reduction of only around 15% compared to the same time last year."

- According to a recent report by Reuters, India's electricity consumption fell by 9.2% in March 2020. Using data from the Power System Operation Corp Ltd (POSOCO), they found that consumers used 100.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in March 2020, compared with 110.33 billion units from 2019.

- ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, comments, "Another interesting feature we can see from these images is the maritime traffic across the Indian Ocean. We can clearly see a faint trail of nitrogen dioxide emissions left in the atmosphere as commercial ship traffic appears almost the same as last year. The shipping lanes appear as a straight line because the ships follow more or less the exact same route."

- Nitrogen dioxide is usually emitted into the atmosphere as a result from power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles – increasing the likelihood of developing respiratory problems. Because concentrations in our atmosphere vary widely on a daily basis, it is necessary to analyze data over substantial periods of time – allowing for more accurate assessments to be made.

- Claus comments, "Weather variability is an important factor to consider when making assessments such as these, which is why our team has averaged the data over a longer period of time. In this case, we can clearly see the decreased concentrations are due to human activity."

- Air pollution is a major environmental health problem that affects people in developed and developing countries alike. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide each year.

- According to a report using data from the World Air Quality Report from IQAir, Indian cities make up six of the world's ten most-polluted urban areas. Air pollution in New Delhi, considered the world's most polluted city, is caused by fumes from sclerotic traffic, the burning of fossil fuels, as well as industrial activity.

- Josef Aschbacher, says, "It has never been more important to monitor the air we breathe. As we have seen over the previous months, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite is the best satellite equipped to monitor nitrogen dioxide concentrations on a global scale"

- With more than 23,000 reported cases of coronavirus across the country, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended the nationwide lockdown until at least 3 May.


Figure 74: These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations from 25 March to 20 April 2019 and average concentrations from 25 March to 20 April 2020. The spikes in the top image show concentrations from 2019 over Delhi and Mumbai. Owing to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 image shows high concentrations in northeast India, which coincides with the ongoing activity in coal-based power plants in east India (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

• April 16, 2020: Further analyses are showing the continued low levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations across Europe – coinciding with lockdown measures implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus. New data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, from the European Union Copernicus program, show some cities seeing levels fall by 45—50% compared to the same period last year. 53)

- Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have been monitoring air pollution over Europe in the past months using data from the TROPOMI instrument of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite.

- Nitrogen dioxide is produced from power plants, vehicles and other industrial facilities and can have significant impacts on human health – increasing the likelihood of developing respiratory problems. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere vary widely day to day owing to the fluctuations of emissions, as well as variations in weather conditions.

- This weather-induced variability proves difficult to draw conclusions based only on daily or weekly measurements, making it necessary to analyze data over a substantial period of time to iron out any anomalies.

- Henk Eskes, from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), comments, "There are considerable variations of weather in every country from one day to the next, creating a large impact on the dispersion of nitrogen dioxide.

- "Averaging data over longer periods of time allows us to see clearer changes in concentrations owing to human activity. For this reason, the maps show concentrations over a monthly period and are provided with an uncertainty of 15% which reflects weather variability not accounted for in the monthly averages used."

- As lockdown measures will continue in the following weeks, the KNMI team will continue to work on a more detailed analysis of other countries in northern Europe, where a larger variability in data owing to changing weather conditions is observed.

- Making use of air-quality models, such as the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, as well as combining results from in situ data, will narrow down the impact of changes in weather on air pollution estimates.


Figure 75: The new images show the nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 13 March until 13 April 2020, compared to the March-April averaged concentrations from 2019. Madrid, Milan and Rome saw decreases of around 45%, while Paris saw a dramatic drop of 54% – coinciding with the strict quarantine measures implemented across Europe (image credit: ESA, the images contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA)

• April 06, 2020: Scientists using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have noticed a strong reduction of ozone concentrations over the Arctic. Unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, have led ozone levels to plummet – causing a ‘mini-hole' in the ozone layer. 54)

- The ozone layer is a natural, protective layer of gas in the stratosphere that shields life from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation – which is associated with skin cancer and cataracts, as well as other environmental issues.

- The ‘ozone hole' most commonly referenced is the hole over Antarctica, forming each year during autumn.

- In the past weeks, scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have noticed the unusually strong depletion of ozone over the northern polar regions. Using data from the TROPOMI instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, they were able to monitor this Arctic ozone hole form in the atmosphere.

Figure 76: Scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, have noticed an unusual ozone hole form over the Arctic. This animation shows the daily ozone levels over the Arctic from 9 March 2020 until 1 April 2020 (video credit: this animation includes modified Copernicus data (2020), processed by DLR/BIRA/ESA)

- In the past, mini ozone holes have occasionally been spotted over the North Pole, but the depletion over the Arctic this year is much larger compared to previous years.

- Diego Loyola, from the German Aerospace Center, comments, "The ozone hole we observe over the Arctic this year has a maximum extension of less than 1 million km2. This is small compared to the Antarctic hole, which can reach a size of around 20 to 25 million km2 with a normal duration of around 3 to 4 months."

- Even though both poles endure ozone losses during winter, the Arctic's ozone depletion tends to be significantly less than Antarctica. The ozone hole is driven by extremely cold temperatures (below -80ºC), sunlight, wind fields and substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

- Arctic temperatures do not usually plummet as low as in Antarctica. However, this year, powerful winds flowing around the North Pole trapped cold air within what is known as the ‘polar vortex' – a circling whirlpool of stratospheric winds.

- By the end of the polar winter, the first sunlight over the North Pole initiated this unusually strong ozone depletion – causing the hole to form. However, its size is still small compared to what can usually be observed in the southern hemisphere.

- Diego says, "Since 14 March, the ozone columns over the Arctic have decreased to what is normally considered ‘ozone hole levels,' which are less than 220 Dobson Units. We expect the hole to close again during mid-April 2020."

- Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, adds, "The TROPOMI total ozone measurements are extending Europe's capability of the continuous global ozone monitoring from space since 1995. In this time, we have not witnessed an ozone hole formation of this size over the Arctic."

- In the 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, data shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. At these projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is predicted to recover by around 2030, followed by the Southern Hemisphere around 2050, and polar regions by 2060.

- The TROPOMI instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite measures a number of trace gases, including aerosol and cloud properties with a global coverage on a daily basis. Given the importance of monitoring air quality and global ozone distribution, the upcoming Copernicus Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions will monitor key air quality trace gases, stratospheric ozone, and aerosols. As part of the EU's Copernicus program, the missions will provide information on air quality, solar radiation and climate monitoring.


Figure 77: Air quality monitoring for Copernicus. Sentinel-5P is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. This new satellite carries the state-of-the-art TROPOMI instrument to map a multitude of trace gases and aerosols that affect the air we breathe and our climate. Sentinel-5P is the forerunner of the Sentinel-5 instrument that will be carried on the MetOp Second Generation weather satellites, the first of which is expected to be operational around 2021. Until then, Sentinel-5P will play an essential role in providing data for forecasting and monitoring air quality around the world (image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

• March 27, 2020: New data, based on observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, are showing strong reductions in nitrogen dioxide concentrations over several major cities across Europe – including Paris, Madrid and Rome. 55)

- The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been spreading rapidly across the world – affecting 170 countries with more than 530,000 confirmed cases worldwide. The coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, and has since stated that the disease is ‘accelerating'.


Figure 78: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over France. These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020 (right), compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 (left), image credit: ESA, the images contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

- In order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, countries across the world are implementing strict measures – placing cities and even entire countries on lockdown.

- The Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite has recently mapped air pollution across Europe and China and has revealed a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide concentrations – coinciding with the strict quarantine measures.

- Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have been using data from Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite to monitor both weather and pollution over Europe.

- The new images clearly illustrate a strong reduction of nitrogen dioxide concentrations over major cities across Europe – specifically Milan, Paris and Madrid.

Figure 79: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Spain. This image, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA)

- Henk Eskes, from KNMI, explains why these dates were chosen, "The nitrogen dioxide concentrations vary from day to day due to changes in the weather. Conclusions cannot be drawn based on just one day of data alone.

- He continues, "By combining data for a specific period of time, 10 days in this case, the meteorological variability partly averages out and we begin to see the impact of changes due to human activity."

- "The chemistry in our atmosphere is non-linear. Therefore, the percentage drop in concentrations may differ somewhat from the drop in emissions. Atmospheric chemistry models, which account for daily changes in weather, in combination with inverse modelling techniques are needed to quantify the emission based on the satellite observations."

- The KNMI team, in collaboration with scientists worldwide, have started to work on a more detailed analysis using ground data, weather data and inverse modelling to interpret the concentrations observed, in order to estimate the influence of the shutdown measures.

- Henk comments, "For quantitative estimates of the changes in the emissions due to transportation and industry, we need to combine the TROPOMI data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite with models of atmospheric chemistry. These studies have started, but will take some time to complete."

- Other countries in northern Europe are being closely monitored, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – but scientists have observed a larger variability owing to changing weather conditions. New measurements from this week will help to assess the changes in nitrogen dioxide over northwest Europe.

- Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, says, "The special features of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, with its high spatial resolution and accurate ability to observe trace gases compared to other atmospheric satellite missions, allows for the generation of these unique nitrogen dioxide concentration measurements from space."

- ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, says, "The long-term cooperation between ESA and KNMI proves very valuable and shows the importance of complementary analyses by different partner organizations. As we can see, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite is the best satellite equipped to monitor nitrogen dioxide concentrations on a global scale."


Figure 80: Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Italy. These images, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, show the average nitrogen dioxide concentrations from 14 to 25 March 2020, compared to the monthly average concentrations from 2019 (image credit: ESA, the images contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

• March 19, 2020: Recent data have shown a decline of air pollution over northern Italy coinciding with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This new map shows the variation of nitrogen dioxide emissions over China from December to March – thanks to the TROPOMI instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite. 56)

- As news of the coronavirus broke out in the Hubei province, China, in late December 2019, stricter measures were put in place. As a result, by late January, factories were closed and streets were cleared as Chinese authorities had ceased daily activities to stop the spread of the illness.

- This led to the dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions – those released by power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles – in all major Chinese cities between late-January and February. The drop in emissions also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations, which usually sees a similar drop in emissions each year.

- The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) observed a decrease of fine particulate matter – one of the most important air pollutants – in February 2020 compared to the previous three years. By combining satellite observations with detailed computer models of the atmosphere, their studies indicated a reduction of around 20-30% in surface particulate matter over large parts of China.

Figure 81: This animation, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the nitrogen dioxide emissions from 20 December 2019 until 16 March 2020 – using a 10-day moving average. The drop in emissions in late-January is visible, coinciding with the nationwide quarantine, and from the beginning of March, the nitrogen dioxide levels have begun to increase (video credit: ESA, the animation contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- As the coronavirus epidemic eases in China, many provinces have downgraded their emergency response levels. Schools, factories and other public spaces are starting to re-open and workers are gradually returning to their jobs.

- Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, says, "Satellites offer a unique vantage point to monitor the health of our planet. Sentinel-5P is one of seven Copernicus satellites in orbit today. It currently provides the most accurate measurements of nitrogen dioxide and other trace gases from space. "As nitrogen dioxide is primarily produced by traffic and factories, it is a first-level indicator of industrial activity worldwide. What is clearly visible is a significant reduction of nitrogen dioxide levels over China, caused by reduced activity due to COVID-19 restrictions, but also the Chinese New Year in January."

- He continues, "The Copernicus program is a perfect example of how space serves all European citizens by combining the political strength of the EU with the technical excellence of ESA."

- Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, "We can certainly attribute a part of the nitrogen dioxide emission reduction to the impact of the coronavirus. We currently see around a 40% reduction over Chinese cities, however these are just rough estimates, as weather also has an impact on emissions.

- "We are conducting a detailed scientific analysis which will soon provide more insights and quantified results in the following weeks and months."

• March 13, 2020: New data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reveal the decline of air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide emissions, over Italy. This reduction is particularly visible in northern Italy which coincides with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 57)

Figure 82: The animation shows the fluctuation of nitrogen dioxide emissions across Europe from 1 January 2020 until 11 March 2020, using a 10-day moving average. These data are thanks to the TROPOMI instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite which maps a multitude of air pollutants around the globe (video credit: ESA, the video contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- Claus Zehner, ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, "The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident.

- "Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities."

- Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, says, "Copernicus Sentinel-5P TROPOMI is the most accurate instrument today that measures air pollution from space. These measurements, globally available thanks to the free and open data policy, provide crucial information for citizens and decision makers."

- The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, with more than 125,000 current cases of the disease reported globally. In Italy, the number of coronavirus cases drastically soared making it the country with the largest number of cases outside of China.

- In an attempt to reduce the spread of the disease, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a lockdown of the entire country – closing schools, restaurants, bars, museums and other venues across the country.

- The Sentinel-5 Precursor – also known as Sentinel-5P – is the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere. The satellite carries the TROPOMI instrument to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe and therefore our health, and our climate.

- Given the growing importance and need for the continuous monitoring of air quality, the upcoming Copernicus Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 missions, as part of the EU's Copernicus program, will monitor key air quality trace gases and aerosols. These missions will provide information on air quality, stratospheric ozone and solar radiation, as well as climate monitoring.

• March 2, 2020: NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China. There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus. 58)

- At the end of 2019, medical professionals in Wuhan, China, were treating dozens of pneumonia cases that had an unknown source. Days later, researchers confirmed the illnesses were caused by a new coronavirus (COVID-19). By January 23, 2020, Chinese authorities had shut down transportation going into and out of Wuhan, as well as local businesses, in order to reduce the spread of the disease. It was the first of several quarantines set up in the country and around the world.

- According to NASA scientists, the reduction in NO2 pollution was first apparent near Wuhan, but eventually spread across the country. Millions of people have been quarantined in one of the largest such actions in human history. As of February 28, 2020, the virus had been detected in at least 56 countries.

- "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event," said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Liu recalls seeing a drop in NO2 over several countries during the economic recession that began in 2008, but the decrease was gradual. Scientists also observed a significant reduction around Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, but the effect was mostly localized around that city, and pollution levels rose again once the Olympics ended.


Figure 83: NO2 amounts have dropped with the coronavirus quarantine, Chinese New Year, and a related economic slowdown. These maps show concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities. The maps show NO2 values across China from January 1-20, 2020 (before the quarantine) and February 10-25 (during the quarantine). The data were collected by TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument) on ESA's Sentinel-5 satellite. A related sensor, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA's Aura satellite, has been making similar measurements (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, images by Joshua Stevens, using modified Copernicus Sentinel 5P data processed by the European Space Agency. Story by Kasha Patel with assistance from NASA Aura and NASA SPoRT science teams)

- The drop in nitrogen dioxide in 2020 also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations in China and much of Asia. Generally, businesses and factories close from the last week in January into early February to celebrate the festival. Past observations have shown that air pollution usually decreases during this period and then increases once the celebration is over.

- "There is always this general slowdown around this time of the year," said Barry Lefer, an air quality scientist at NASA. "Our long-term OMI data on NASA's Aura satellite allows us to see if these amounts are abnormal and why." Launched in 2004, OMI has been collecting global data on NO2 and various air pollutants for more than 15 years.


Figure 84: These maps show NO2 values over three periods in 2020: January 1-20 (before Lunar New Year), January 28-February 9 (around New Year celebrations), and February 10-25 (after the event). The 2020 values are compared to the same periods in 2019 for reference. Lefer noted that the overall values in 2020 were lower than 2019 due to new environmental regulations that China has enforced over the past few years (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- While the Lunar New Year may have played a role in the recent dropoff, researchers believe the decrease is more than a holiday effect or weather-related variation. In a preliminary analysis, NASA researchers compared NO2 values detected by OMI in 2020 with the average amounts detected at this time of year from 2005-2019. In 2020, NO2 values in eastern and central China were significantly lower (from 10 to 30 percent lower) than what is normally observed for this time period.

- Additionally, Liu and colleagues have not seen a rebound in NO2 after the holiday. "This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer," she said. "I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus."

• January 9, 2020: Ferocious bushfires have been sweeping across Australia since September, fuelled by record-breaking temperatures, drought and wind. The country has always experienced fires, but this season has been horrific. A staggering 10 million hectares of land have been burned, at least 24 people have been killed and it has been reported that almost half a billion animals have perished. The fires have not only decimated the land, but they have also had a serious effect on air quality. 59)

Figure 85: Aerosol spread from Australian fires. This animation shows the immense spread of aerosols from bushfires in southeast Australia between 28 December 2019 and 8 January 2020. These plumes of particles have swept over New Zealand and crossed the South Pacific Ocean, even reaching Chile and Argentina (video credit: ESA, the video contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019–20), processed by ESA)

• January 9, 2020: The Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor mission is dedicated to monitoring air pollution by measuring a multitude of trace gases that affect the air we breathe. 60)

Figure 86: The animation shows increasing concentrations of carbon monoxide between September and December along Australia's southeast coast. - Carbon monoxide is commonly associated with traffic, but here we see the increase in atmospheric concentrations owing to the fires. Naturally, once in the air, it can cause problems for humans by reducing the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the bloodstream. - According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, 2019 was the country's warmest year on record. The fires are thought to be down to this specific weather phenomena and climate change (image credit: ESA)




Sensor complement: (TROPOMI)

The Sentinel-5P mission is an atmospheric chemistry mission, providing measurements at high temporal and spatial resolution. Its payload, the TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument), is being supplied as a national contribution to the GMES program by the Netherlands. The TROPOMI instrument design is of SCIAMACHY and OMI heritage; Dutch institutions provided major contributions in the development of these instruments.

OMI was launched in 2004 on NASA's Aura spacecraft and SCIAMACHY in 2002 on ESA's Envisat mission. Both instruments are very successful. Since OMI started observing the atmosphere, its service has never been interrupted. SCIAMACHY, OMI and TROPOMI are passive sun backscatter spectrographs using the ultraviolet-to-SWIR wavelengths. SCIAMACHY uses a scanning concept and linear detector arrays, and covers almost the entire Solar irradiance spectrum from 240 to 2400 nm. OMI is scaled down in terms of wavelength range (270 –500 nm) but uses a staring pushbroom concept. This concept measures all ground pixels in the swath simultaneously and therefore allows a much improved spatial resolution. 61) 62) 63)

TROPOMI takes the best of the two by combining the large wavelength range of SCIAMACHY (albeit with some gaps) and with OMI's staring concept. The full advantage of staring concept is taken by reducing the ground pixel size to 7 x 7 km2 and on top of that making the instrument suitable for very dark scenes (albedo 2 – 5 %). This means that the instrument etendue is improved by more than an order of magnitude. This allows for unprecedented observations of sources and sinks of air quality, and climate related gases and aerosols. The spatial resolution results in a high fraction of cloud-free observations and is combined with a wide swath of 104° (about 2600 km on ground) to allow daily coverage of the complete Earth with sub-city resolution, as illustrated by Figure 87.


Figure 87: A schematic view of the 7 x 7 km2 ground pixel resolution of TROPOMI (T) compared to OMI, SCIAMACHY and GOME-2 (image credit: Dutch Space, Ref. 61)

The basic TROPOMI applications are:

• Monitoring changes in the atmospheric composition (e.g. ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), formaldehyde (CH2O), and the properties of aerosols and clouds at high temporal (daily) resolution.

• Troposphere variability.


Figure 88: TROPOMI system breakdown and unit suppliers (image credit: Dutch Space)


TROPOMI (Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument):

TROPOMI is an advanced nadir-viewing imaging absorption spectrometer, a DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer) instrument, to provide data on atmospheric trace gases and aerosols impacting air quality and climate. The instrument is being co-funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and ESA. ESA signed an agreement with the Netherlands in July 2009; the instrument development is led by Dutch Space, Leiden, The Netherlands, as prime contractor (Ref. 1). 64) 65)

TROPOMI is a collaboration between KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute), SRON (Space Research Organization Netherlands), TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research), and Dutch Space, on behalf of NSO (Netherlands Space Office). KNMI (PI) and SRON (co-PI) are responsible for the scientific management and the data products of the project. Dutch Space is the principal contractor for the construction of the instrument. The TROPOMI development is jointly funded by NSO and ESA; both agencies cover the programmatic aspects of TROPOMI. 66) 67) 68)

NSO responsibility is the development, procurement, calibration, in-orbit commissioning of TROPOMI, and the generation of Level-1B data. ESA is responsible of the procurement of the satellite, the ground segment, the launch and in-orbit commissioning. The implementation of the Sentinel-5P mission is performed by a ESA/NSO Joint Project Team (JPT).

The instrument development passed its Instrument-PDR review (IPDR) in May 2011. The IPDR was conducted as a top down review and subsystem PDRs followed in the remainder of 2011. 69)

In May 2014, the TROPOMI instrument for ESA's Sentinel 5-precursor satellite, is in its final stages of integration now and many hardware results are becoming available. This concerns at this moment the SWIR, UVIS and NIR spectrometers and all flight detectors and soon the remaining UV spectrometer. 70)

Some background:

TROPOMI is the most recent in a series of UV-VIS-NIR-SWIR sun backscatter hyper spectral instruments that measure the atmospheric composition. These instruments measure with or without polarization the combination of Earth and sun spectra. From their ratio, the reflectance spectra, absorptions taking place in the Earth atmosphere are derived. Concentrations of trace gases can be determined because these gases have very specific wavelength-dependent absorption features (Figure 89). Other products, like aerosols, clouds and surface properties, have broader absorption structures and can be derived after accurate radiometric calibration (Ref. 68).

After NASA's EOS-Aura satellite, carrying the OMI instrument, and ESA's Envisat satellite, carrying the SCIAMACHY instrument, no other instrumentation was planned in space with comparable capabilities as OMI and SCIAMACHY until the launch of the GMES Sentinel 5 mission in 2020. - This means that from ultimately 2014 onward, a data gap will exist in measuring the troposphere from space. The GOME-2 and IASI instruments on MetOp will not be able to cover this gap, due to their limited spatial resolution and lack of CH4 and CO measurements with good sensitivity down to the Earth's surface. For these reasons, the TROPOMI instrument has been defined as the successor of OMI and SCIAMACHY and bridge the time period from 2015 on Sentinel-5P until the GMES instrumentation on Sentinel-5. 71)

The TROPOMI mission objective is to measure the troposphere for scientific research, and in support of services to society, down to the Earth's surface, with sufficiently high spatio-temporal resolution to quantify anthropogenic and natural emissions and atmospheric life cycles of trace gases (O3, CO, HCHO, and SO2) and two major greenhouse gases (tropospheric O3 and methane (CH4)). In addition, aerosol particles will be monitored, which impact on air quality and climate forcing from the regional to the global scale. 72) 73)

Derived from the overall mission objective, the TROPOMI science objectives are:

• To better constrain the strength, evolution, and spatio-temporal variability of the sources of trace gases and aerosols impacting air quality and climate.

• To improve upon the attribution of climate forcing by a better understanding of the processes controlling the lifetime and distribution of methane, tropospheric ozone, and aerosols.

• To better estimate long-term trends in the troposphere, related to air quality and climate from the regional to the global scale, and provide boundary conditions for assessing local and regional air quality.

• To develop and improve air quality model processes and data assimilation in support of operational services, including air quality forecasting and protocol monitoring.

Besides filling the gap, TROPOMI combines the strengths of SCIAMACHY, OMI, and state of the art technology to provide observations with performances that cannot be met with today's instruments in space. Performance of current in-orbit instruments will be surpassed in terms of sensitivity, spectral resolution, spatial resolution and temporal resolution. However, TROPOMI will observe a smaller part of the spectrum compared with SCIAMACHY as is shown in Figure 89.

Programmatic aspects: The schedule of the Sentinel-5P program is very compact with respect to similar traditional programs. To achieve this schedule and to reduce costs of the instrument development, measures are taken in the development process of TROPOMI. These measures are, amongst others: reducing the number of requirements, reducing the number of documents to be generated, using ECSS's as guidelines rather than applicable documents, an efficient decision making process and applying the LightSat approach defined by ESA. The LightSat approach relaxes product assurance requirements and allows higher risk in some areas. On the satellite level, parallel procurement of the spacecraft platform and the instrument is applied to achieve the compact schedule. This requires flexibility in the development processes of the instrument and the spacecraft.


Figure 89: TROPOMI spectral window compared with GOME, SCIAMACHY and OMI (image credit: Dutch Space, TNO)

The development of the TROPOMI instrument was started long before the development of the spacecraft platform was selected. Of course, this is normal procedure for a complex payload that needs to be designed compared to the spacecraft platform with a standard bus architecture. This is one of the reasons that the spacecraft selection took place in a late stage of the development of TROPOMI (Ref. 61).

The CDR (Critical Dign Review) of the TROPOMI instrument is planned for end of 2012, early 2013. 74)


Instrument: The TROPOMI instrument is a pushbroom type imaging spectrometer (use of 2D detector technology) that covers a spectral range from ultraviolet to visible and selected bands in near-infrared, referred to as UVN (UV-VIS-NIR), and SWIR (Short Wave Infrared) around 2.3 µm. The relevant subsystems are: 75) 76) 77) 78) 79) 80)

• Instrument Telescope

• Instrument Calibration Unit

• UVN spectrometer, funded by NSO

• SWIR spectrometer

• ICU (Instrument Control Unit)

• TSS (Telescope Support Structure)

• RC (Radiant Cooler)

• GSE (Ground Support Equipment), funded by ESA.

The instrument is mounted on a TSS (Telescope Support Structure) which in turn in mounted onto the spacecraft (S/C) (Figure 90). A passive thermal radiator is used to reject heat from the system.

The main building blocks of TROPOMI are the following (Figure 90):

• UVN (UV-VIS-NIR) module, with telescope, three spectrograph bands and the calibration module

• SWIR module, with SWIR spectrograph

• ICU, the control unit and electrical spacecraft interface

• Thermal radiator, the passive detector and SWIR module cooler

Part of the spectrographs are the detector modules with 2-dimensional detector (CCD for the UVN and CMOS for the SWIR).

The UVN module consists of the telescope – which is shared by the UVN and the SWIR – and the 3 UVN spectrometer channels (UV, UVIS and NIR) each equipped with individual detector units. The telescope has a very wide FOV of 108º. A polarization scrambler is placed in the optical path to make the measurements insensitive to the polarization state of the incoming light. The light from the telescope is separated in the flight direction by a reflective slit. This means that the UV and SWIR channels will see a slightly shifted part of the Earth than the UVIS and NIR channels (Figure 91).


Figure 90: TROPOMI functional block diagram (image credit: Dutch Space, TNO, Ref. 79)


Figure 91: Projection of the spectrometer slit on-ground (image credit: Dutch Space, TNO)

Legend to Figure 91: The so-called spatial smile is caused by off-axis mirrors in the telescope. The NIR (and UVIS) channel use a common slit, while the SWIR (and UV1) channels are in-field separated by ~1º in the flight direction.

CU (Calibration Unit): The CU includes the following:

• Two sun diffusers; one for regular use, one as a backup

• WLS (White Light Source); PRNU (Photo Response Non-Uniformity) calibration and on-ground health checks

• A LED (Light-Emitting Diode) to monitor the short term variation in the output of the WLS

• For the SWIR channel, a number of laser diodes are placed in the CU, in order to be able to monitor the instrument spectral response function.

Besides the sun, a WLS, SLS (Spectral Light Source), common LEDs and channel specific LEDs are used for calibration purposes in eclipse. The WLS which is implemented using a halogen light bulb, since it provides a broad spectral range. The LEDs, positioned close to the WLS, are used to analyze the small WLS degradation. The WLS and the LEDs calibration light will pass the spectrograph. Therefore, channel LEDs are positioned close to the detectors that are used to be able to distinguish the degradations of the optical components and the detectors. The fifth calibration source is the SLS that is implemented using temperature-controlled Laser Diodes. This calibration source is located in the CU and is solely used for in flight calibration of the SWIR channel. The Laser Diodes have a very narrow spectrum that will be shifted by varying the temperature of the Laser Diodes.

The general instrument layout is shown in Figures 97 and 98. The UVN (UV-VIS-NIR) module contains the UVN spectrometer bands, the telescope and the calibration unit. The UVN module is accommodated on the UVN-OBM (Optical Bench Module). The SWIR spectrograph has its own module for thermal reasons. Since a shared telescope is used, the light for the SWIR channel is guided by relay optics in the UVN-OBM to the SWIR module.

All detectors are optimized for the light that they will detect. The UVIS and NIR detectors have a graded anti-reflective coating, in order to reduce stray light and decrease interference effects in the silicon. The SWIR optics and detector need to be cooled down to ~200 K and 140 K, respectively, to achieve the required performance. The UVN detectors operate at 210 K and 220 K, and the UVN-OBM is maintained at room temperature. The two-stage RC (Radiant Cooler) enables cooling of the optical and electrical components. Thermal busses consisting of heat pipes and flex links form the thermal interfaces with the radiant cooler. The radiant cooler is equipped with a large door that blocks irradiance from Earth (not shown in the figures). This cooler door must be stowed to fit inside the launcher fairing. Once Sentinel-5P is in orbit, the cooler door will be opened after one month. This delay prevents that the cooler areas will be contaminated by outgassing particles from the spacecraft and other instrument units by keeping these cooler surfaces warm.

The UVN module is developed by Dutch Space and TNO. The SWIR module is the cooled module containing the SWIR spectrograph and is developed by SSTL in the UK. The multilayer optical coatings are developed at CILAS Etablissement de Marseille (France).

SWIR detector/FEE subsystem:

The SWIR detector is from Sofradir (France), it is controlled by FEE (Front-End Electronics) developed by SRON. The SWIR spectrum is projected onto a Sofradir-developed 2D detector array consisting of 1000 spectral pixels and 256 spatial pixels on a 30 µm pitch, the Saturn geometry. The detector consists of an HgCdTe-based photo-sensitive layer on top of an CdZnTe substrate with a protective layer, also acting as a reflection-limiting layer. This stack is hybridized by indium bump bonds to a silicon ROIC (Read-Out Integrated Circuit) where the signal charge is converted into a voltage by CTIA (Capacitive Trans-impedance Amplifiers). Upon read out, the signal of each individual pixel is clocked simultaneously onto a sample-and-hold circuit. Signals are subsequently clocked onto 4 parallel video output lines and amplified and digitized by the FEE (Ref. 70).

The SWIR detector is mounted in a hermetically-closed package with an anti-reflection coated silicon window. The detector package is mounted onto a molybdenum base plate, attached to an aluminum cold finger providing the connection to the cold-stage radiator (Figure 92). The operational temperature of the SWIR detector is 140 K. The cold detector is connected to the 200 K SWIR spectrometer by a thin-walled titanium double cone. This construction is very stable, closed for EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference) and provides thermal insulation. An anti-reflection coated silicon window just before the SWIR detector prevents any water vapor from freezing onto the cold detector window. The small volume around the detector is vented though the cold finger and through a PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene) tube to space. This prevents any water vapor from reaching the cold detector from this side. The measures to prevent water from reaching the detector are based on lessons learned from the EnviSat/Sciamachy SWIR channels.


Figure 92: Schematic view of the SWIR detector module (image credit: TROPOMI consortium)

All electrical signals between the cold detector and the warm front-end electronics are carried by a multi-layer kapton-copper flex link. Both outer surfaces of the flex link contain a copper mesh to provide protection against EMI.

The room-temperature FEE powers and commands the SWIR detector. It amplifies the four analog video-output signals of the detector and provides digitization by using four 14 bit ADCs (Maxwell 9240LP, with the AD9240 chip of Analog Devices inside). Digital detector data and house-keeping data are relayed to the ICU (Instrument Control Unit) using the ChannelLink protocol. All communication with the ICU as well as all coordination inside the FEE is performed by a RTAX2000S FPGA.

The SWIR detector is read with a pixel speed of 800 kHz, leading to a frame-read time of 82 ms, and a maximum frame rate of 12 Hz. This is much lower than the detector capabilities, but sufficient for the application. The FEE controls the detector temperature by reading the two internal T-sensors of the Saturn detector and a PID algorithm in the FPGA. Thin-film heaters are mounted at the back of the molybdenum plate. A typical detector temperature stability obtained is 6 mK rms.

The combination of the TROPOMI SWIR detector and its FEE has been thoroughly characterized. Only the memory between two consecutive readings is with 1.6 - 1.9 % out of spec, leading to a data correction. Where this correction is not complete an effective smear of information from one ground pixel to the next has to be accepted. The detector performance on sensitivity, dark current, noise, and their uniformities are better than specified, as well as the linearity and the number of dead pixels. Overall, the performance of the SWIR detector and its FEE is considered very good for the TROPOMI application.

SWIR module: The SWIR module on TROPOMI, designed and developed by SSTL, is a pushbroom grating spectrometer operating between 2305-2385 nm. The system has a spatial resolution of approximately 7 x 7 km2 at nadir and covers a swath of 2670 km. The SWIR module will be used to measure the concentration of methane and carbon monoxide in the Earth's atmosphere providing global daily coverage from a sun-synchronous orbit.

The optical design consists of a telescope, slit, collimator, immersed grating, anamorphic prism and an imaging lens. The SWIR telescope forms an image of ground on the SWIR Spectrometer slit. The slit acts as a spatial filter selecting a strip of ground as an input to the rest of the spectrometer. A collimator takes light from the slit and creates collimated beams as an input to the immersed grating. The immersed grating disperses the collimated beams in the along track direction and the anamorphic prism and imaging lens form a dispersed image of the slit on the detector. A band pass filter is manufactured as part of the slit prism and restricts light that can reach the detector from outside the operational waveband.

The SWIR immersed grating is supplied by SRON and the SWIR detector is supplied by Sofradir. The SWIR optics are mounted in housings off a common optical bench. The optical bench is mounted off the TROPOMI telescope support structure with bipods; the bipods form a pseudoisostatic mount. The optical bench is a two piece aluminum alloy sandwich plate. Optical mounts are mounted on both sides of the optical bench. The optical bench provides a stiff framework and attachment points for mounts to be structurally connected. Aluminum alloy is selected in order to minimize thermal gradients. The optical housings are manufactured in titanium and flexure supports are used to accommodate for the difference in CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) between the housings and the optical bench. The assembled SWIR module is shown in Figure 93.


Figure 93: Photo of the TROPOMI SWIR spectrometer module (image credit: TROPOMI consortium, Ref. 70)

The ICU is the main electronics unit including clock sequencers for detector readout and is developed by RUAG in Sweden; the TSS (Astrium Germany) is the structure carrying the UVN with telescope and the SWIR modules.


Figure 94: TROPOMI measurement principle (image credit: KNMI) 81)

Telescope design: TROPOMI is a pushbroom instrument imaging a very wide field of view on Earth on a rectangular slit. The slit is relayed to four spectrometers for four different channels (UV, UVIS, NIR, and SWIR). In one direction, the spatial information is resolved over the long direction of the slit. This direction is referred to as the swath direction. In the other direction, spatial information is resolved by ‘sweeping' over the Earth surface. This is the flight direction. 82)


Figure 95: 3D view of the TROPOMI telescope (image credit: TNO)

Design with freeform mirrors: The telescope is shown in Figure 95. Light from Earth passes the entrance pupil and is reflected by a concave primary mirror that forms an intermediate focus. The intermediate focus is imaged by a second concave mirror on the spectrometer entrance slit. The entrance pupil is imaged in the focal plane of the second mirror, where the physical pupil stop is located. This has the advantage that the light beams leave the telescope nearly parallel (i.e. the image is telecentric), which eases the design of the spectrometers, keeping the dimensions small. Near the pupil stop, a polarization scrambler is placed to make the telescope polarization independent. In the vicinity of the intermediate focus, two field limiting apertures are present: one limits the field in the swath direction and functions as an actual field limiter. The other limits the field in the perpendicular direction (referred to as flight direction). The latter functions as a baffling aperture.

The telescope is an almost perfect f-q system: the angle in the swath direction in the entrance pupil depends linearly on the position in the slit. In the flight direction, the angle in the entrance pupil depends quadratically on the position in the slit. This latter effect is called ‘smile', after the shape of the field of view in the entrance pupil.

Diamond turning: The freeform mirrors cannot be manufactured using conventional tools. They are both non-spherical and have no axis of symmetry. The sag of the non-rotational symmetric terms varies on the order of 1 mm. In addition to the requirements on resolution, which dictates the form and the tolerances on the surface shape, other issues to deal with are throughput and stray light, dictating requirements on reflectivity and roughness, respectively.

Measurement: Suitable absolute metrology is a key ingredient in the freeform production chain. Specifically for freeform measurement, the project developed a unique absolute metrology tool called NANOMEFOS (Non-contact Measurement Machine for aspheric and Freeform Optics) 83) that has the capability of non-contact measuring surfaces with an uncertainty of better than 15 nm rms. It is fast, universal, and can accommodate large work pieces. Typical sampling speed is as high as several tens of thousands of points per minute. Its measurement volume is ∅ 500 mm x 100 mm. The NANOMEFOS machine scans the surface with an optical probe, and therefore has variable point spacing. The sampling point distance is in practice limited by the measurement time. For measuring form, ~0.1 to 1 mm is usually applied, but also line scans with mm point spacing can be applied, thus giving the possibility to perform measurements over a very large spatial frequency range.

The measurement concept resembles a giant CD-player (Fig. 6). The product is mounted on a spindle, rotating at typical speed of a few rpm around a q axis. As the product rotates, the non-contact optical distance probe moves in radial and vertical (RZ) direction. Mounted on a rotation axis Ψ, it is continuously being positioned perpendicular to the best fit (rotationally symmetric) aspheric fit of the product. The probe follows focus with an additional stage with a range of 5 mm. Thus, NANOMEFOS is able to measure any freeform surface with a that has up to 5 mm (PV) maximum deviation with respect to the best fit aspheric (convex or concave) surface.


Figure 96: NANOMEFOS machine concept with long range optical probe and separate metrology frame (image credit: TNO)

For TROPOMI a pushbroom telescope was designed that combines a very high resolution of better than 0.1° with a large FOV of 108° and a f/9 x f/10 aperture. Applying fully freeform surfaces, the telescope could be realized using no more than two mirrors. The improvement over predecessor OMI would not have been feasible without the freeform design.


Figure 97: The TROPOMI external instrument configuration with view on entrance ports (image credit: Dutch Space)

Legend to Figure 97: The SWIR module is located at the right and the UVN in the center; the telescope with the 108º wide FOV (Field-of View) angle is in front as well as the sun viewing port.

Figure 97 shows how the UVN module and telescope and the SWIR module are mounted on a common base plate. The telescope and UVN module have a common structure and the light from the telescope is fed into the SWIR module via relay optics.


Figure 98: The TROPOMI external instrument configuration with view on the SWIR module (image credit: Dutch Space)

All four TROPOMI detectors have their own read-out and control modules that have the functions of detector readout, analog-to-digital conversion, and detector thermal control. The UVN detectors are back-illuminated CCD detectors read out by Detector Modules (UVN-DEMs) that share the same design. The SWIR channel employs a CMOS detector and has a dedicated Front End Electronics module (SWIR-FEE) for detector readout and detector thermal control.

The UVN-DEMs and SWIR modules are all FPGA-based modules that are powered, controlled, and read out by the ICU (Instrument Control Unit) positioned inside the spacecraft. The ICU takes care of processing the data and forwarding the data to the spacecraft mass memory. The electrical interfaces used to transfer the science data are 140 Mbit/s Channel Link interfaces between the detectors modules and the ICU and an 80 Mbit/s SpaceWire interface between the ICU and spacecraft mass memory. - Besides controlling the detector modules, reading-out, processing and forwarding science data, the ICU provides other functions to the TROPOMI instrument. These functions are; providing thermal control to all instrument units, controlling the calibration light sources and mechanisms, and providing engineering data for instrument health status. 84)


Figure 99: Layout of the UVN-DEM (Detector Electronics Module), image credit: TROPOMI consortium, (Ref. 70)

The mass of the TROPOMI instrument is 220 kg. This is fairly low taking into account the instruments capability; this has been made possible by the SWIR design using a specially developed silicon immersed grating (Figure 100). The power consumption is: 170 W (average) and 382 W (max).

Mass of TROPOMI instrument

220 kg

Mass of ICU (Instrument Control Unit)

17.4 kg

Overall instrument size (stowed configuration)

1.40 m x 0.65 m x 0.75 m

Average operational power consumption

~170 W

Science data rate

20 GByte/orbit

Table 4: Physical properties of the TROPOMI instrument

Achieving the performances listed in Table 5 in combination with the coregistration (the same viewing direction for all wavelengths of the given detector rows) and SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) requirements, the alignment and thermal control of the optical elements are key requirements. The TSS (Telescope Support Structure) uses a 10 cm thick honeycomb slab with a 3 mm face-sheets base plate that ensures proper mounting and alignment of the units and serves as mechanical interface with the spacecraft.

Spectral characteristics: The spectral properties of each of the spectrometers are shown in Table 5. The spatial sampling is 7 km x 7 km with the exception of bands 1 and 6. Band 1 has a larger ground pixel to allow good SNR given the low radiances for these wavelengths. Band 6 is used to obtain the most important cloud products and is read at higher spatial resolution to have as good as possible coregistration of these cloud products and the other bands.

Band No

Spectral band

Spectral range (nm)

Spectral resolution (nm)

Spectral sampling (nm)

Spatial sampling (km2)

binning factor







21 x 28








7 x 7








7 x 7








7 x 7








7 x 7








7 x 1.8







< 0.1

7 x 7



Table 5: Performance characteristics of the TROPOMI spectral bands

The UVIS and NIR bands make use of the same spectrograph slit whereas the UV and SWIR have separate slits. This allows having a wider slit for the UV to compensate for the lower radiance for these wavelengths and for the SWIR it allows to have the slit included in the cooled SWIR module. The different slits result in slightly different viewing angles in the flight direction.


Figure 100: Illustration of the TROPOMI instrument (TNO, Dutch Space)

The DOAS (Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer) radiometry of Earth's atmosphere trace gases is the new frontier of remote sensing. To achieve the required instrument performance it is necessary to have very stable spectrometers with high spectral resolution and high SNR. TROPOMI is paving the way not only for future high end instruments that will be embarked on the next ESA Sentinel 5 mission, but it is also the opportunity to build a solid technology platform to be used as stepping stone for future instruments. While high end applications as Sentinel 5 will further push the limit of the technology, a number of simpler and more affordable, but still meaningful, instruments could be designed using the technology platform developed for TROPOMI. The TROPOMI technology platform encompasses materials, manufacturing processes, metrology, calibration, and equally important, a tight cooperation between the engineering and science teams (Ref. 67).






Data since/from

January 2007

June 2007

Fall 2014


Overpass time





Spectral coverage

650-790 nm

757-775 nm

757-775 nm

675-775 nm

Spatial sampling





Spatial resolution of single measurements

40 km x 80 km

10 km diameter

1.3 km x 2.25 km

7 km x 7 km

Spatial resolution of global composites



Sensitivity of SIF retrieval to cloud contamination



Very low


Approx. Number of clear sky observations/day





Table 6: Comparison of performance parameters of GHG (Greenhouse Gas) missions (Ref. 80)




Introduction of innovative technology:

The most important innovation in the TROPOMI-SWIR band is the silicon immersed grating developed by SRON, together with TNO. Compared to normal gratings, the silicon immersed grating works more efficient, yielding to a smaller grating and a much smaller SWIR module in terms of volume and mass. For the TROPOMI SWIR module this innovation enabled a volume reduction of almost a factor 40 (Ref. 61).

By letting the infrared light first pass through a medium with refractive index n before it is dispersed by the grating from inside the medium, the grating works n times more efficient than the traditional version. This trick allows the project to make the grating n times smaller and the total instrument n3 times smaller. SRON, together with TNO, have developed silicon immersed gratings with a refractive index of 3.42. This has yielded a huge, almost forty-fold, volume reduction for the spectrometer. - Immersion means that diffraction takes place inside the medium, in our case silicon. The high refractive index of the silicon medium boosts the resolution and the dispersion. Ultimate control over the groove geometry yields high efficiency and polarization control. Together, these aspects lead to a huge reduction in spectrometer volume. This has opened new avenues for the design of spectrometers operating in the short-wave-infrared wavelength band. Immersed grating technology for space application was initially developed by SRON and TNO for the short-wave-infrared channel of TROPOMI, built under the responsibility of SSTL. 85) 86) 87)

On TROPOMI the SWIR and UVN spectrometers share a common telescope. Figure 101 shows the layout of the SWIR spectrometer. A relayed image of the TROPOMI telescope input pupil is provided at the interface to the SWIR module. A SWIR telescope comprising a silicon germanium doublet forms an image of the ground on a SWIR slit. The slit is manufactured on a silicon prism using photo lithographic methods. A second silicon germanium doublet collimates light from the slit into the IG (Immersed Grating). A five element imaging lens (l1 - l5), comprising silicon and germanium elements forms a spectrally dispersed image of the slit on a MCT detector. An AP (Anamorphic Prism) is included between the immersed grating and the imaging lens and this provides fine alignment adjustment for coregistration requirements.


Figure 101: Optical layout of the TROPOMI SWIR spectrometer including the IG (Immersed Grating), an AP (Anamorphic Prism), camera-objective lenses l1-l5, and detector windows (image credit: SRON, TNO, Ref. 86)

Grating design: Figure 102 shows the IG schematically, with the incoming rays in black and dispersed rays in blue and red. The grating surface shows the characteristic V-grooves (not to scale) that arise from our etching technique; grooves are etched along a specific crystallographic direction of the mono-crystalline silicon grating material. This method results in a controlled blaze angle close to 55°, and smooth groove surfaces. The grating period is 2500 nm corresponding to 400 lines/mm. The flat parts in the plane of the grating, between the grooves are 800 nm wide. The grating is used in order six. The grating facet has a reflective coating. The angle between the grating entrance facet and grating facet is ~60º. The incoming beam is at normal incidence with the entrance facet.


Figure 102: Sketch of the principle of a normal reflection grating (left) and an immersed grating (right), lithographically produced in silicon (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Diffraction grating: The stringent requirements on both the imaging properties and the quality of the spectra translate to a high-tech grating scheme. Hence, a novel diffraction grating scheme was developed at SRON for the SWIR band based on lithographical techniques and anisotropic etching in silicon. In the design, the dispersion and resolution is increased by a factor of 3.4 with respect to conventional gratings; the grating is developed in an immersion, such that diffraction takes place inside the silicon grating material. By lithographic patterning and anisotropic etching of the mono-crystalline silicon the line spacing and blaze angle can be precisely controlled. 88) 89) 90)

The grating has a line spacing of 2.5 µm and is operated in sixth order. We show that an efficiency of 60% is reached on a 50 x 60 mm2 grating surface. The test results with numerical calculations for grating efficiency for both polarizations are compared and were found in good agreement.

This novel approach has a fourfold benefit over conventional mechanical ruling of gratings:

1) First the gratings are lithographically produced and thus benefit from state-of-the art methods, materials and equipment from the semiconductor industry.

2) Secondly, using anisotropic etching along preferred axes in the silicon crystal arbitrary blaze angles can be obtained enabling optimization of the diffraction efficiency.

3) Thirdly, the etched reflecting facets are very smooth suppressing stray light.

4) A fourth and decisive improvement over traditional gratings is that silicon gratings can be illuminated from inside the medium, or "in immersion", for wavelengths above 1.2 µm for which silicon is transparent.

The resolution of a grating scales with its size, relative to the wavelength. By illuminating the grating from the inside, as illustrated in Figure 102, the wavelength is reduced by the index of refraction of the medium n. Therefore, immersed gratings of high index materials can be made smaller than conventional gratings. The volume gain of the complete spectrometer can be up to n-cubed, implying a huge cost reduction for many applications, in particular for space applications. These advantages make the immersed gratings "enabling technology" for future scientific space missions.

The grating, selected for the TROPOMI SWIR spectrometer, has a line spacing of 2500 nm and a 54.7º blaze angle. The total grating area is 50 mm high and 60 mm in width. An efficiency of 60% is obtained.


Figure 103: Photo of the monolithical immersed grating (left), drawing of the grating prism (right), image credit: SRON, TNO)

Mounting the grating: The immersed grating is a single crystal of silicon with a grating surface etched onto one face. The operational temperature of the optical bench is 200 K. The immersed grating is mounted in a monolithic titanium alloy structure (Figure 104); it is held into the structure by epoxy adhesive (Masterbond EP21TCHT-1). The epoxy adhesive is contained in recesses within invar buttons to control the bond line thickness. Invar is used at the adhesive interface as its CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) is a good match to that of the silicon of the immersed grating over the required temperature range. This will limit the stress induced birefringence and also ensures that stresses in the adhesive are kept to a minimum. Due to the CTE difference between titanium alloy and the silicon prism, flexure sections are required in the mounting structure to compensate for displacements at operating temperature. The invar buttons are therefore mounted into flexure arms which feature a thin blade section to compensate for displacements across the prism and folded flexure spring sections to compensate for further displacements.


Figure 104: Mounting scheme of the immersed grating (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Legend to Figure 104: The immersed grating prism (purple, on left side image) is mounted in a monolithic titanium alloy structure (grey); it is held into the structure by epoxy adhesive. Invar is used at the adhesive interface. The right side image is a zoom of the mounting structure showing an invar button (brown) mounted in a flexure spring section of the titanium structure.

The manufacturing and test of the IGs was completed in July 2012. The FM and spare gratings are fully compliant with the optomechanical specifications. The wave front error is 0.6 µm rms and can be reduced to 0.3 µm rms with focus correction (Ref. 86).


Detector development: The UVN detector developed for TROPOMI is a back illuminated 1024 x 1024 pixel frame transfer CCD with a pixel pitch of 26 µm. The device is developed by e2V in the UK and has different coatings for the different wavelength bands to allow maximizing the quantum efficiency and minimizing interference structures for the NIR (Ref. 69). 91)

The device is operated in non-inverted mode (NIMO). Despite the higher intrinsic dark current (surface dark current is not suppressed) this has a number of advantages. The first is that it allows using the full pixel full well instead of being limited by the so-called ellipsoid effect present in inverted mode (IMO). This effect is an ellipsoid shaped noisy structure occurring when pixels are filled more than typically 50%. Such a reduction of the pixel full well is not acceptable in view of the already high pixel readout rate of 5 MHz. A further advantage of NIMO is the lower power dissipation. This allows obtaining a lower operating temperature with the same cooling power and thereby repairs much of the increase in dark current. Since the largest contribution to the dark current will come from the surface of the CCD, the contribution from RTS (Random Telegraph Signal) will be much lower. In addition the lower temperature will not only decrease the bulk dark current but also the RTS, both in amplitude and in time scale. At the proposed operating temperature the time scale of any RTS will probably be long enough such that any RTS that may be present can be corrected for.

The device has metal buttresses to have the line transfer time as low as possible to minimize exposure smear. Having metal buttresses means that with today's technologies, the project is bound to 2 phase parallel clocking. This results in a lower pixel full well, as compared to 4 phase clocking, but this was acceptable in view of the lower development risk.

First test results with a front illuminated breadboard detectors show that most performances are as expected. There is no sign of RTS pixels in the test devices and the dark current is better than anticipated.


Figure 105: Photo of the EM (Engineering Model) of the TROPOMI UVN CCD (image credit: e2V)

For the SWIR range, TROPOMI uses the off-the-shelf Sofradir SATURN detector. This is a HgCdTe-based CMOS detector with 1000 x 256 pixels of 30 µm pitch. The detector is, apart from the number of pixels, similar to the MARS detector which was used successfully in a SWIR spectrograph breadboard.

Operational flexibility: TROPOMI is a very flexible instrument in terms of the readout of its detectors. The most important instrument settings are as follows.

• To avoid saturation in the detectors, there are up to 25 detector readouts during the spatial sampling satellite travel distance. TROPOMI allows users to set the exposure times with step size 1 ms for the UVN and 200 µs for the SWIR and the number of exposures to be co-added into the spatial sampling distance in the flight direction.

• The UVN module CCDs bin a programmable number of pixels to have the wanted sampling in the swath direction, nominally 4 detector pixels are binned to have a 7 km resolution at nadir. Since the sampling measured on ground increases with the swath angle, it is possible to have lower binning factors towards the extreme swath angles.

• The UVN module CCDs allow binning groups of pixel rows below and above the illuminated regions to have stray light estimates and also to bin covered rows on top and the bottom of the CCDs for exposure smear and dark current. Gains for these rows are selected separately to allow fair SNRs (Signal-to-Noise Ratios).

• For each UVN band, it is possible to select the CCD output amplifier gain and the ADC (Analog Digital Converter) gain, separately for each row.

The exposure time settings are to be used to optimize the SNRs for different latitudes and for special cases such as ozone hole conditions. Since the exposure times for all bands have to fit into the same satellite travel distance, it is also possible to adjust the exposure co-addition time and thereby the spatial sampling in the flight direction.

The flexibility in selecting the exposure times introduces in turn a risk of EMC effects in the detector readout. This risk is minimized by including ADCs in the detector proximity electronics, thereby having digital signals in the harness between detector modules and electronics unit. On the other hand, the detectors are read at a frequency of 5 MHz which is high enough to be cautious.

This risk is mitigated by synchronizing the different detectors. This is achieved by implementation of a few simple rules.

• During a frame transfer of any UVN detector, there shall be no readout of any other detector

• During a line transfer (of the storage section into the register) of any UVN detector, there shall be no readout of any other detector.

• Frame transfers, line transfers and readout shall not be interrupted.

It is possible to switch the synchronization off in case the EMC risk does not show up in later hardware phases.

Co-registration: Co-registration means that all wavelengths of a given detector row have the same viewing directions, both in the across-flight and in the flight direction. Coregistration is important because level 1-2 product retrieval algorithms assume all wavelengths in the Level 1 product observe the same air mass. There are a number of hardware effects that impact the coregistration performance.

In the flight direction, the different slits for UV, UVIS/NIR and SWIR lead to a swath dependent offset as shown in Figure 106. The effect for the UV is similar but this is not so critical as this band observes the upper atmosphere with few clouds and scene variation.


Figure 106: UVIS/NIR and SWIR slits projected onto the Earth surface, showing the displacement, increase with swath angle and relative curvature in the flight direction (image credit: SRON, TNO)

Legend to Figure 106: The two bottom curves mark the start and end of the slit projection for the UVIS/NIR and the two upper curves for the SWIR.

In the swath direction and within detector bands, there are the cushion-shaped distortions related to using gratings. These are minimized as much as possible in the optical design but there will be remnants due to manufacturing tolerances. - In the swath direction the most difficult effects are between the detector bands, as these require subdetector pixel accuracies in detector mounting and optical element alignment and the accuracies include orbital effects due to the changing thermal environment.

The most critical coregistration performance is between the NIR and the SWIR and the NIR and the UVIS bands because the NIR band yields the cloud product needed to obtain accurate air mass estimates for the trace gas products from the SWIR and UVIS bands.

Hence, the project downlinks the NIR data at improved spatial sampling and interpolate the NIR data towards the SWIR and the UVIS viewing. In the swath direction, this is possible by reducing the detector pixel binning from 4 to 2 and thereby have a spatial sampling of 3.5 km. In the flight direction, the co-addition time is reduced by a factor 3 and thereby the spatial sampling is about 2.3 km. Given the relevant resolutions, this is sufficient for interpolation. Interpolation is seen as an effective correction of the inter-channel co-registration errors. The accuracy of the knowledge of the pointing difference between channels and its stability form now the most important remaining error. The stability of the co-registration during flight is estimated to be within 10% of a ground pixel which is sufficiently small.

Heterogeneous scenes: Trace gas products from instruments such as TROPOMI are normally derived from reflectance spectra, the ratio of Earth radiance and sun irradiance measurements. The absorption signatures in these spectra can be small, e.g. in the order of a per cent in the case of minor absorbing gases. Therefore, if an accuracy in the product of a few per cent is wanted, then the reflectance spectra need to be free from any distortion on the 10-3 to 10-4 level and with a very accurate wavelength definition in the order of 1/100 of a spectral sampling distance.

There are several mechanisms introducing such distortions or features:

• Sun measurements use a diffuser to convert irradiance into radiance entering the telescope; because of the good spectral and spatial resolution coherence effects will show up as seemingly random spikes or features; the Earth spectra do not use a diffuser and therefore the features are present in the reflectance spectra.

• The polarization scrambler consists of a stack of four birefringent wedges and result in wavelength and viewing angle dependent modulations of the signals; these modulations vary in the Earth measurements with polarization but they are constant in the sun measurements as this is not polarized.

• Varying pixel-to-pixel variation in the detector sensitivity (PRNU) in combination with a varying scene and pixel binning leads to small errors in Earth radiance measurements; sun measurements do not have the effect because the sun is spatially constant via the diffuser.

• Non-uniform illumination of the slit in the across slit direction leads to distortion of the slit function and effectively in a wavelength shift and radiometric effect.

The latter is the heterogeneous scenes effect and is the topic of this section. Figure 107 shows the basics of an OMI-type spectrograph, showing the transfer of flight direction spatial information towards slit illumination and from there onto the spectral direction of the 2D detector.


Figure 107: SNR spectrum of the UVIS spectrograph for end-of-life conditions together with requirement (image credit: SRON, TNO)

The left side of the graph (Figure 108) shows light beams from different directions entering the telescope and being imaged on different edges of the slit. The right size of the graph shows a spectrograph where the beams are projected on different locations of the detector. If the scene is constant, this leads to the desired slit function, or SRF (Spectral Radiance Function), imaged onto the detector. If the illumination of the slit is not uniform, the beams have different radiance content and cause a distortion of the slit function. This distortion causes a radiometric error, and, because the barycenter of the slit function is changed, to a wavelength error.


Figure 108: Basic pushbroom spectrograph showing how flight direction spatial information on the left is transferred to the spectral response function on the right; color separation from the grating is left out of the graph


Figure 109: Staring observation of a heterogeneous scene for the UVIS band at 500 nm; the different curves are for the different exposures where the satellite has moved (image credit: SRON, TNO)

The effect has been modelled where Figure 109 shows the different parts of the scene observed for the different exposures within a co-addition or dwell time. The dwell time was chosen such that it includes a major change in the scene. Following the graphs in Figure 109, an additional convolution was applied to include the motion of the satellite and the curves were converted to wavelength scale to obtain the slit functions or SRFs. This conversion is directly from the fact that a half a ground pixel on Earth (3.5 km) is imaged onto 3 detector pixels and the same 3 detector pixels represent the oversampled spectral resolution.

The slit functions are used to compute from high resolution scene spectra the pixel content for each detector pixel and this allows to compute an error by comparing the result with that of an averaged constant scene. The result is shown in Figure 110 and shows the errors are on a percent level.


Figure 110: Heterogeneous scenes errors as a function of wavelength (image credit: SRON, TNO)

The errors can be seen as a shift in the barycenter's of the slit functions and can therefore also be expressed as wavelength errors. This is shown in Fig. 12 where the wavelength errors are shows from fitting the Fraunhofer structures in the spectra in a number of predefined wavelength windows. The heterogeneous scene has errors of about 0.015 nm.


Figure 111: Wavelength fit errors from heterogeneous scene as compared to the reference scene; they show up because the differently shaped slit functions have effectively shifted barycenters (image credit: SRON, TNO)




Ground segment:

The ground segment main elements are the FOS (Flight Operations Segment) located at ESOC in Darmstadt and the PDGS (Payload Data-processing Ground Segment) and Mission Planning Facility, located at DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, both in Germany. Their tasks are the commanding, tracking and monitoring of the spacecraft as well as the acquisition, processing, archiving and dissemination of science data, respectively. The PDGS will, in particular, host the Level 0-1b & Level 2 processing facility which will generate routine Level 0 / 1b and Level 2 data products. The Level 0-1b software is provided by KNMI to be installed in the PDGS. The Level 2 products are a joint procurement by ESA and NSO and is coordinated by KNMI. The Level 2 products are developed by KNMI, SRON, DLR and BIRA. 92) 93)

The envisaged near-real-time dissemination scheme for Level 1b and 2 data products implies that the recorded science telemetry is downlinked at least once per orbit. This will be accomplished by use of high latitude X-band stations in the Svalbard region of Spitzbergen, Norway. A schematic view of the primary elements of the ground segment is given in Figure 112.


Figure 112: Ground segment schematic data flow (image credit: ESA, Ref. 62)

Table 7 lists the level 2 data products of Sentinel 5. With the exception of the CO2, all products are targeted by the Sentinel 5P TROPOMI instrument.

Level-2 data product

Wavelength range (nm)

Ozone vertical profile (O3)


Sulphur dioxide (SO2)




Total ozone (O3)




Formaldehyde (HCHO)


Bromine monoxide (BrO)


Rayleigh scattering (cloud), aerosol absorption




Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)


Glyoxal (CHOCHO)




Cloud (O2-O2)


Water vapor and cloud


Cloud (O2-A band)


Aerosol profile (O2-A band)


Methane (CH4) (&CO2)


Aerosol profile


Carbon monoxide (CO) (&CH4)


Table 7: Sentinel 5 Data Products (Ref. 67)

The DLR German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) in Oberpfaffenhofen developed and integrated the entire payload ground segment, including data reception, processing, archiving and distribution. Operation of the payload ground segment as part of the ESA ground segment also belongs to the remit of the German Remote Sensing Data Center. The data processors that convert the measurement data into geophysical data products were developed by the DLR Remote Sensing Technology Institute, the University of Bremen and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz as part of a European consortium.


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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (


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