Abundant molecular chlorine found in the Arctic atmosphere

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  • Published: Jan 17, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Proteomics / Atomic / Chemometrics & Informatics / Raman / NMR Knowledge Base / Base Peak / MRI Spectroscopy / X-ray Spectrometry / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Infrared Spectroscopy

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An international team of scientists has found unprecedented levels of molecular chlorine in the Arctic atmosphere, originating from snow-covered land or surface ice, with huge implications for atmospheric chemistry. Writing in Nature Geoscience, they explained how the concentrations reached 400 pptv, and they were frequently higher than 100 pptv in the marine boundary layer above Barrow, Alaska, over a period of six weeks.

The measurements were made using chemical ionisation mass spectrometry. Chlorine levels peaked in early morning and late afternoon, falling to almost zero at night, and correlated with the ozone levels. This suggested that sunlight and ozone are required for the formation of chlorine, which originated from snow or ice, and ultimately from sodium chloride in the sea.

The high levels and the diurnal pattern were both surprising because the chlorine lifetime is only about 10 minutes during the day. However, the measurements were rigorously validated by several diagnostic tests to confirm that they are real and not a a local environmental artefact.

The findings have important implications for environmental chemistry in the region, given that chlorine is often the most abundant airborne oxidant in the region. "Further direct measurements of Cl2 and other chlorine species (for example, ClO, HCl and HOCl) at other locations in the Arctic, particularly over the sea ice, are needed to determine whether this phenomenon is widespread," the team concluded. "Furthermore, laboratory experiments are needed to explore the formation mechanisms of Cl2 to help further estimate the trends and the impact of chlorine in the Arctic."


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