1School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
2National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
3Institute for Climate And Atmospheric Science, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
*now at: School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
**now at: National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Abstract. The hydroxyl radical (OH) plays a key role in the oxidation of trace gases in the troposphere. However, observations of OH and the closely related hydroperoxy radical (HO2) have been sparse, especially in the tropics. Based on a low-pressure laser-induced fluorescence technique (FAGE – Fluorescence Assay by Gas Expansion), an instrument has been developed to measure OH and HO2 aboard the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurement (FAAM) BAe-146 research aircraft. The instrument is described and the calibration method is discussed. During the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) campaign, observations of OH and HO2 (HOx) were made in the boundary layer and free troposphere over West Africa on 13 flights during July and August 2006. Mixing ratios of both OH and HO2 were found to be highly variable but followed a diurnal cycle, with a median HO2/OH ratio of 95. Daytime OH observations were compared with the primary production rate of OH from ozone photolysis in the presence of water vapour. Daytime HO2 observations were generally reproduced by a simple steady-state HOx calculation, where HOx was assumed to be formed from the primary production of OH and lost through HO2 self-reaction. Deviations between the observations and this simple model were found to be grouped into a number of specific cases: (a) in the presence of high levels of isoprene in the boundary layer, (b) within a biomass burning plume and (c) within cloud. In the forested boundary layer, HO2 was underestimated at altitudes below 500 m but overestimated between 500 m and 2 km. In the biomass burning plume, OH and HO2 were both significantly reduced compared to calculations. HO2 was sampled in and around cloud, with significant short-lived reductions of HO2 observed. HO2 observations were better reproduced by a steady state calculation with heterogeneous loss of HO2 onto cloud droplets included. Up to 9 pptv of HO2 was observed at night, increasing early in the morning. Potential sources of high altitude HO2 at night are also discussed.