Tropical tropospheric ozone columns (TTOCs) have been determined with a convective-cloud-differential (CCD) method, using ozone column and cloud measurements from the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) instrument. GOME cloud top pressures, derived with the Fast Retrieval Scheme for Clouds from the Oxygen A-band (FRESCO) method, indicate that most convective cloud top levels are between 300 and 500 hPa and do not extend to the tropical tropopause. The new GOME-CCD method takes this tropical transition layer below the tropopause into account and uses above-cloud and clear-sky ozone column measurements to derive a monthly mean TTOC below 200 hPa. Validation of the GOME-TTOCs with seven Southern Hemisphere Additional Ozonesondes (SHADOZ) sites shows good agreement, with an RMS difference of about 5 Dobson units. In the northern tropics the GOME-TTOC compares most of the time well with in situ measurements at Paramaribo (6°N, 55°W) and Abidjan (5°N, 4°W). Analysis of the GOME-TTOCs for 2000 and 2001, with the aid of the chemistry-transport model TM3, illustrates that the variability in the TTOC depends on a complex interaction of several processes, including biomass burning, lightning, and large-scale transport. The much larger extent of the South Atlantic TTOC maximum in September–October 2001, compared to September–October 2000, can be attributed to differences in large-scale transport. An exceptional situation in the northern tropics occurred during the biomass burning season December 2001 to January 2002, when there were almost no fires over northern Africa. This resulted in strongly reduced TTOCs over the Atlantic between the equator and 10°N.