Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Atmos. Meas. Tech., 15, 5841–5859, 2022


Used by permission.


To combat global warming, Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gases to be (GHGs) 40 %–45 % below 2005 emission levels by 2025. Monitoring emissions and deriving accurate inventories are essential to reaching these goals. Airborne methods can provide regional and area source measurements with small error if ideal conditions for sampling are met. In this study, two airborne mass-balance box-flight algorithms were compared to assess the extent of their agreement and their performance under various conditions. The Scientific Aviation’s (SciAv) Gaussian algorithm and the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s top-down emission rate retrieval algorithm (TERRA) were applied to data from five samples. Estimates were compared using standard procedures, by systematically testing other method fits, and by investigating the effects on the estimates when method assumptions were not met. Results indicate that in standard scenarios the SciAv and TERRA mass-balance box-flight methods produce similar estimates that agree (3%–25%) within algorithm uncertainties (4%– 34%). Implementing a sample-specific surface extrapolation procedure for the SciAv algorithm may improve emission estimation. Algorithms disagreed when non-ideal conditions occurred (i.e., under non-stationary atmospheric conditions). Overall, the results provide confidence in the box-flight methods and indicate that emissions estimates are not overly sensitive to the choice of algorithm but demonstrate that fundamental algorithm assumptions should be assessed for each flight. Using a different method, the Airborne Visible InfraRed Imaging Spectrometer – Next Generation (AVIRIS-NG) independently mapped individual plumes with emissions 5 times larger than the source SciAv sampled three days later. The range in estimates highlights the utility of increased sampling to get a more complete understanding of the temporal variability of emissions and to identify emission sources within facilities. In addition, hourly on-site activity data would provide insight to the observed temporal variability in emissions and make a comparison to reported emissions more straightforward.