Hydroxyl radical buffered by isoprene oxidation over tropical forests

D. Taraborrelli, M.G. Lawrence, J.N. Crowley, T.J. Dillon, S. Gromov, C.B.M. Groß, L. Vereecken, J. Lelieveld

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The hydroxyl radical is a key oxidant in the Earth's atmosphere. This short-lived highly reactive molecule plays an important role in the degradation of volatile organic compounds, leading to the production of ozone and the formation and growth of aerosol particles . In this way, hydroxyl radicals influence air quality and regional climate. Measurements over tropical forests suggest that hydroxyl radicals are recycled following reaction with the volatile organic compound isoprene , but the chemistry underpinning this observation is uncertain. Here, we propose a detailed chemical mechanism for the oxidation of isoprene by hydroxyl radicals. The photo-oxidation of unsaturated hydroperoxy-aldehydes - a product of isoprene oxidation - is a central part of the mechanism; their photolysis initiates a hydroxyl radical production cascade that is limited by the reaction of hydroperoxy-aldehydes with the hydroxyl radical itself. We incorporate this mechanism into a global atmospheric chemistry model and find that measurements of hydroxyl radical concentrations over a pristine region of the Amazon, and in moderately polluted conditions, are captured well. On the basis of this agreement, we suggest that isoprene oxidation can buffer hydroxyl radical concentrations, by serving as both a sink and source for these radicals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-193
Number of pages4
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012

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