Role of nitrite in the photochemical formation of radicals in the snow

Hans-Werner Jacobi, Jörg Kleffmann, Guillermo Villena, Peter Wiesen, Martin King, James France, Cort Anastasio, Ralf Staebler

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20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Photochemical reactions in snow can have an important impact on the composition of the atmosphere over snow-covered areas as well as on the composition of the snow itself. One of the major photochemical processes is the photolysis of nitrate leading to the formation of volatile nitrogen compounds. We report nitrite concentrations determined together with nitrate and hydrogen peroxide in surface snow collected at the coastal site of Barrow, Alaska. The results demonstrate that nitrite likely plays a significant role as a precursor for reactive hydroxyl radicals as well as volatile nitrogen oxides in the snow. Pollution events leading to high concentrations of nitrous acid in the atmosphere contributed to an observed increase in nitrite in the surface snow layer during nighttime. Observed daytime nitrite concentrations are much higher than values predicted from steady-state concentrations based on photolysis of nitrate and nitrite indicating that we do not fully understand the production of nitrite and nitrous acid in snow. The discrepancy between observed and expected nitrite concentrations is probably due to a combination of factors, including an incomplete understanding of the reactive environment and chemical processes in snow, and a lack of consideration of the vertical structure of snow.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2014

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