Summer variability of the atmospheric NO2:NO ratio at Dome C, on the East Antarctic Plateau [in review]

Previous Antarctic summer campaigns have shown unexpectedly high levels of oxidants in the lower atmosphere of the continental plateau as well as at coastal regions, with atmospheric hydroxyl radical (OH) concentrations up to 4 × 106 cm−3. Such high reactivity of the summer Antarctic boundary layer results in part from the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx ≡ NO + NO2) produced during photo-denitrification of the snowpack, but its underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood as some of the chemical species involved (NO2, in particular) have not yet been measured directly and accurately. To overcome this crucial lack of information, newly developed optical instruments based on absorption spectroscopy (incoherent broadband cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy or IBBCEAS) were deployed for the first time at Dome C (−75.10 lat., 123.33 long., 3,233 m a.s.l) during the 2019–2020 summer campaign to refine uncertainties in snow-air-radiation interaction. These instruments directly measure NO2 with a detection limit of 30 pptv (parts per trillion by volume or 10–12 mol mol−1) (3σ). We performed two sets of measurements in December 2019 (4th to 9th) and January 2020 (16th to 25th) to capture the early and late photolytic season, respectively. Late in the season, the daily averaged NO2 : NO ratio (0.4 ± 0.4) matches that expected for photochemical equilibrium through Leighton’s extended relationship involving ROx (0.6 ± 0.3). In December, however, we observe a daily averaged NO2 : NO ratio of 1.3 ± 1.1, which is approximately twice the daily ratio of 0.7 ± 0.4 calculated for Leighton equilibrium. This suggests that more NO2 is produced from the snowpack early in the photolytic season (December 4th to 9th) possibly due to stronger UV irradiance caused by a smaller solar zenith angle near the solstice. Such a high sensitivity of the NO2 : NO ratio to the sun’s position is of importance for consideration in atmospheric chemistry models.


Publication status:
Published Online
Authors: Barbero, Albane, Savarino, Joël, Grilli, Roberto, Frey, Markus M. ORCIDORCID record for Markus M. Frey, Blouzon, Camille, Helmig, Detlev, Caillon, Nicolas

On this site: Markus Frey
15 December, 2021
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: Discussions
Link to published article: