Importance of reactive halogens in the tropical marine atmosphere: A regional modelling study using WRF-Chem

Alba Badia*, Claire E. Reeves, Alex R. Baker, Alfonso Saiz-Lopez, Rainer Volkamer, Theodore K. Koenig, Eric C. Apel, Rebecca S. Hornbrook, Lucy J. Carpenter, Stephen J. Andrews, Tomás Sherwen, Roland Von Glasow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the impact of reactive halogen species (RHS, containing chlorine (Cl), bromine (Br) or iodine (I)) on atmospheric chemistry in the tropical troposphere and explores the sensitivity to uncertainties in the fluxes of RHS to the atmosphere and their chemical processing. To do this, the regional chemistry transport model WRF-Chem has been extended to include Br and I, as well as Cl chemistry for the first time, including heterogeneous recycling reactions involving sea-salt aerosol and other particles, reactions of Br and Cl with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), along with oceanic emissions of halocarbons, VOCs and inorganic iodine. The study focuses on the tropical east Pacific using field observations from the Tropical Ocean tRoposphere Exchange of Reactive halogen species and Oxygenated VOC (TORERO) campaign (January-February 2012) to evaluate the model performance. Including all the new processes, the model does a reasonable job reproducing the observed mixing ratios of bromine oxide (BrO) and iodine oxide (IO), albeit with some discrepancies, some of which can be attributed to difficulties in the model's ability to reproduce the observed halocarbons. This is somewhat expected given the large uncertainties in the air-sea fluxes of the halocarbons in a region where there are few observations of their seawater concentrations. We see a considerable impact on the inorganic bromine (Br y ) partitioning when heterogeneous chemistry is included, with a greater proportion of the Br y in active forms such as BrO, HOBr and dihalogens. Including debromination of sea salt increases BrO slightly throughout the free troposphere, but in the tropical marine boundary layer, where the sea-salt particles are plentiful and relatively acidic, debromination leads to overestimation of the observed BrO. However, it should be noted that the modelled BrO was extremely sensitive to the inclusion of reactions between Br and the oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs), which convert Br to HBr, a far less reactive form of Br y . Excluding these reactions leads to modelled BrO mixing ratios greater than observed. The reactions between Br and aldehydes were found to be particularly important, despite the model underestimating the amount of aldehydes observed in the atmosphere. There are only small changes to the inorganic iodine (Iy) partitioning and IO when the heterogeneous reactions, primarily on sea salt, are included. Our model results show that tropospheric Ox loss due to halogens ranges between 25% and 60%. Uncertainties in the heterogeneous chemistry accounted for a small proportion of this range (25% to 31%). This range is in good agreement with other estimates from state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry models. The upper bound is found when reactions between Br and Cl with VOCs are not included and, consequently, Ox loss by BrOx, ClOx and IOx cycles is high (60%). With the inclusion of halogens in the troposphere, O 3 is reduced by 7ppbv on average. However, when reactions between Br and Cl with VOCs are not included, O 3 is much lower than observed. Therefore, the tropospheric Ox budget is highly sensitive to the inclusion of halogen reactions with VOCs and to the uncertainties in current understanding of these reactions and the abundance of VOCs in the remote marine atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3161-3189
Number of pages29
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) 2019.


  • halogens
  • tropical
  • WRF-Chem
  • GEOSChem
  • regional modelling

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