Data assimilation obtains improved estimates of the state of a physical system by combining imperfect model results with sparse and noisy observations of reality. Not all observations used in data assimilation are equally valuable. The ability to characterize the usefulness of different data points is important for analyzing the effectiveness of the assimilation system, for data pruning, and for the design of future sensor systems. In the companion paper (Sandu et al., 2012) we derive an ensemble-based computational procedure to estimate the information content of various observations in the context of 4D-Var. Here we apply this methodology to quantify the signal and degrees of freedom for signal information metrics of satellite observations used in a global chemical data assimilation problem with the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model. The assimilation of a subset of data points characterized by the highest information content yields an analysis comparable in quality with the one obtained using the entire data set
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