Past, present and future atmospheric nitrogen deposition

Maria Kanakidou (Lead Author), Stelios Myriokefalitakis, Nikos Daskalakis, G. Fanourgakis, Athanasios Nenes, Alexander Baker, Kostas Tsigaridis, Nikos Mihalopoulos

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Reactive nitrogen emissions into the atmosphere are increasing due to human activities, affecting nitrogen deposition to the surface and impacting the productivity of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. An atmospheric chemistry-transport model (TM4-ECPL) is here used to calculate the global distribution of total nitrogen deposition, accounting for the first time for both its inorganic and organic fractions in gaseous and particulate phases, and past and projected changes due to anthropogenic activities. The anthropogenic and biomass burning ACCMIP historical and RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 emissions scenarios are used. Accounting for organic nitrogen (ON) primary emissions, the present-day global nitrogen atmospheric source is about 60% anthropogenic, while total N deposition increases by about 20% relative to simulations without ON primary emissions. About 20-25% of total deposited N is ON. About 10% of the emitted nitrogen oxides are deposited as ON instead of inorganic nitrogen (IN) as is considered in most global models. Almost a 3-fold increase over land (2-fold over the ocean) has been calculated for soluble N deposition due to human activities from 1850 to present. The investigated projections indicate significant changes in the regional distribution of N deposition and chemical composition, with reduced compounds gaining importance relative to oxidized ones, but very small changes in the global total flux. Sensitivity simulations quantify uncertainties due to the investigated model parameterizations of IN partitioning onto aerosols and of N chemically fixed on organics to be within 10% for the total soluble N deposition and between 25-35% for the dissolved ON deposition. Larger uncertainties are associated with N emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2039-2047
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date25 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Physical Meteorology and Climatology
  • Aerosols
  • Air quality
  • Air-sea interaction
  • Anthropogenic effects
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Chemistry
  • atmospheric

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