A recent development in ground-based remote sensing of atmospheric constituents by UV-visible absorption measurements of scattered light is the simultaneous use of several horizon viewing directions in addition to the traditional zenith-sky pointing. The different light paths through the atmosphere enable the vertical distribution of some atmospheric absorbers, such as NO2, BrO, or O3, to be retrieved. This approach has recently been implemented on an airborne platform. This novel instrument, the airborne multiaxis differential optical absorption spectrometer (AMAXDOAS), has been flown for the first time. In this study, the amount of profile information that can be retrieved from such measurements is investigated for the trace gas NO2. Sensitivity studies on synthetic data are performed for a variety of representative measurement conditions including two wavelengths, one in the UV and one in the visible, two different surface spectral reflectances, various lines of sight (LOSs), and for two different flight altitudes. The results demonstrate that the AMAXDOAS measurements contain useful profile information, mainly at flight altitude and below the aircraft. Depending on wavelength and LOS used, the vertical resolution of the retrieved profiles is as good as 2 km near flight altitude. Above 14 km the profile information content of AMAXDOAS measurements is sparse. Airborne multiaxis measurements are thus a promising tool for atmospheric studies in the troposphere and the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere region.
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