Marine iodine emissions in a changing world

Lucy J. Carpenter, Rosie J. Chance, Tomás Sherwen, Stephen M. Ball, Mat J. Evans, Helmke Hepach, Lloyd D. J. Hollis, Timothy D. Jickells, Anoop Mahajan, David P. Stevens, Liselotte Tinel, Martin R. Wadley

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Iodine is a critical trace element involved in many diverse and important processes in the Earth system. The importance of iodine for human health has been known for over a century, with low iodine in the diet being linked to goitre, cretinism and neonatal death. Research over the last few decades has shown that iodine has significant impacts on tropospheric photochemistry, ultimately impacting climate by reducing the radiative forcing of ozone (O3) and air quality by reducing extreme O3 concentrations in polluted regions. Iodine is naturally present in the ocean, predominantly as aqueous iodide and iodate. The rapid reaction of sea-surface iodide with O3 is believed to be the largest single source of gaseous iodine to the atmosphere. Due to increased anthropogenic O3, this release of iodine is believed to have increased dramatically over the twentieth century, by as much as a factor of 3. Uncertainties in the marine iodine distribution and global cycle are, however, major constraints in the effective prediction of how the emissions of iodine and its biogeochemical cycle may change in the future or have changed in the past. Here, we present a synthesis of recent results by our team and others which bring a fresh perspective to understanding the global iodine biogeochemical cycle. In particular, we suggest that future climate-induced oceanographic changes could result in a significant change in aqueous iodide concentrations in the surface ocean, with implications for atmospheric air quality and climate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200824
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2247
Early online date3 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2021


  • global iodine cycle
  • halogens
  • iodide
  • iodine
  • ozone
  • sea-air interactions

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