Are Low-order Covariance Estimates Useful in Error Analyses?

NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

Atmospheric trace gas inversions, using modeled atmospheric transport to infer surface sources and sinks from measured concentrations, are most commonly done using least-squares techniques that return not only an estimate of the state (the surface fluxes) but also the covariance matrix describing the uncertainty in that estimate. Besides allowing one to place error bars around the estimate, the covariance matrix may be used in simulation studies to learn what uncertainties would be expected from various hypothetical observing strategies. This error analysis capability is routinely used in designing instrumentation, measurement campaigns, and satellite observing strategies. For example, Rayner, et al (2002) examined the ability of satellite-based column-integrated CO2 measurements to constrain monthly-average CO2 fluxes for about 100 emission regions using this approach. Exact solutions for both state vector and covariance matrix become computationally infeasible, however, when the surface fluxes are solved at finer resolution (e.g., daily in time, under 500 km in space). It is precisely at these finer scales, however, that one would hope to be able to estimate fluxes using high-density satellite measurements. Non-exact estimation methods such as variational data assimilation or the ensemble Kalman filter could be used, but they achieve their computational savings by obtaining an only approximate state estimate and a low-order approximation of the true covariance. One would like to be able to use this covariance matrix to do the same sort of error analyses as are done with the full-rank covariance, but is it correct to do so? Here we compare uncertainties and `information content' derived from full-rank covariance matrices obtained from a direct, batch least squares inversion to those from the incomplete-rank covariance matrices given by a variational data assimilation approach solved with a variable metric minimization technique (the Broyden-Fletcher- Goldfarb-Shanno algorithm). Two cases are examined: a toy problem in which CO2 fluxes for 3 latitude bands are estimated for only 2 time steps per year, and for the monthly fluxes for 22 regions across 1988-2003 solved for in the TransCom3 interannual flux inversion of Baker, et al (2005). The usefulness of the uncertainty estimates will be assessed as a function of the number of minimization steps used in the variational approach; this will help determine whether they will also be useful in the high-resolution cases that we would most like to apply the non-exact methods to. Baker, D.F., et al., TransCom3 inversion intercomparison: Impact of transport model errors on the interannual variability of regional CO2 fluxes, 1988-2003, Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles, doi:10.1029/2004GB002439, 2005, in press. Rayner, P.J., R.M. Law, D.M. O'Brien, T.M. Butler, and A.C. Dilley, Global observations of the carbon budget, 3, Initial assessment of the impact of satellite orbit, scan geometry, and cloud on measuring CO2 from space, J. Geophys. Res., 107(D21), 4557, doi:10.1029/2001JD000618, 2002.

Baker, D. F.; Schimel, D.

2005-12-01