Cap Verde

The Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory (CVAO), at Calhau on the island of São Vicente. The CVAO is a World Meteorological Organisation-Global Atmospheric Watch (WMO-GAW) global station and provides quality-assured atmospheric data.

An Aero-Laser AL5001 instrument for the measurement of carbon monoxide mixing ratios in background air has been installed at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory (CVAO) since October 2006 and there are no plans for the measurements to stop in the foreseeable future. At the University of York we also have an AL5002 instrument which is used for shorter deployments (e.g. for NAMBLEX and OP3 and has in the past been used as a back-up for both the Cape Verde system and the FAAM aircraft system. 

The aim of the project is to monitor the background concentration of CO (along with other trace gases) in the tropical marine boundary layer, to gain increased understanding of the oxidation capacity in this region.  The CVAO site is a “Global” Global Atmospheric Watch site which means that it meets the requirements to provide data required to address environmental issues of global scale and importance.

Some of these requirements include the following:

  1. The station location is regionally representative and is normally free of the influence of significant local pollution sources.
  2. There are adequate power, air conditioning, communication and building facilities to sustain long term observations with greater than 90% data capture (i.e. <10% missing data). 
  3. The GAW CO observation made is of known quality and linked to the GAW CO Primary Standard. 
Inside the CVAO station.

CO data is presently submitted in near-real-time to the MACC (Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Climate) project which is part of the European GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) programme. The concentration of CO in the marine boundary layer is mainly controlled by the hydroxyl radical (OH) concentration. Deviations occur as a result of long-range transport from more polluted areas and the occasional biomass burning input from the Canary Islands.

Instrument rack containing an AL5001 CO-monitor.


Publication single view


Title: The chemistry of OH and HO2 radicals in the boundary layer over the tropical Atlantic Ocean
Authors: L.K. Whalley, K.L. Furneaux, A. Goddard, J.D. Lee, A. Mahajan, H. Oetjen, K.A. Read, N. Kaaden, L.J. Carpenter, A.C. Lewis, J.M.C. Plane, E.S. Saltzman, A. Wiedensohler and D.E. Heard
Journal: Atmos. Chem. Phys.
Year: 2010
Volume: 10
Pages: 1555
DOI: 10.5194/acp-10-1555-2010
Web URL:
Abstract: Fluorescence Assay by Gas Expansion (FAGE) has been used to detect ambient levels of OH and HO2 radicals at the Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory, located in the tropical Atlantic marine boundary layer, during May and June 2007. Midday radical concentrations were high, with maximum concentrations of 9 ×106 molecule cm−3 and 6×108 molecule cm−3 observed for OH and HO2, respectively. A box model incorporating the detailed Master Chemical Mechanism, extended to include halogen chemistry, heterogeneous loss processes and constrained by all available measurements including halogen and nitrogen oxides, has been used to assess the chemical and physical parameters controlling the radical chemistry. The model was able to reproduce the daytime radical concentrations to within the 1 σ measurement uncertainty of 20% during the latter half of the measurement period but significantly under-predicted [HO2] by 39% during the first half of the project. Sensitivity analyses demonstrate that elevated [HCHO] (~2 ppbv) on specific days during the early part of the project, which were much greater than the mean [HCHO] (328 pptv) used to constrain the model, could account for a large portion of the discrepancy between modelled and measured [HO2] at this time. IO and BrO, although present only at a few pptv, constituted ~19% of the instantaneous sinks for HO2, whilst aerosol uptake and surface deposition to the ocean accounted for a further 23% of the HO2 loss at noon. Photolysis of HOI and HOBr accounted for ~13% of the instantaneous OH formation. Taking into account that halogen oxides increase the oxidation of NOx (NO → NO2), and in turn reduce the rate of formation of OH from the reaction of HO2 with NO, OH concentrations were estimated to be 9% higher overall due to the presence of halogens. The increase in modelled OH from halogen chemistry gives an estimated 9% shorter lifetime for methane in this region, and the inclusion of halogen chemistry is necessary to model the observed daily cycle of O3 destruction that is observed at the surface. Due to surface losses, we hypothesise that HO2 concentrations increase with height and therefore contribute a larger fraction of the O3 destruction than at the surface.

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