Atmospheric chemistry in volcanic plumes

R von Glasow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent field observations have shown that the atmospheric plumes of quiescently degassing volcanoes are chemically very active, pointing to the role of chemical cycles involving halogen species and heterogeneous reactions on aerosol particles that have previously been unexplored for this type of volcanic plumes. Key features of these measurements can be reproduced by numerical models such as the one employed in this study. The model shows sustained high levels of reactive bromine in the plume, leading to extensive ozone destruction, that, depending on plume dispersal, can be maintained for several days. The very high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the volcanic plume reduces the lifetime of the OH radical drastically, so that it is virtually absent in the volcanic plume. This would imply an increased lifetime of methane in volcanic plumes, unless reactive chlorine chemistry in the plume is strong enough to offset the lack of OH chemistry. A further effect of bromine chemistry in addition to ozone destruction shown by the model studies presented here, is the oxidation of mercury. This relates to mercury that has been coemitted with bromine from the volcano but also to background atmospheric mercury. The rapid oxidation of mercury implies a drastically reduced atmospheric lifetime of mercury so that the contribution of volcanic mercury to the atmospheric background might be less than previously thought. However, the implications, especially health and environmental effects due to deposition, might be substantial and warrant further studies, especially field measurements to test this hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6594-6599
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume107
Issue number15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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