1Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, USA
2Department of Atmospheric Chemistry, Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
3Department of Chemistry, University of York, York, UK
4National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of York, York, UK
5School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
Abstract. Cl atoms in the marine atmosphere may significantly impact the lifetimes of methane and other hydrocarbons. However, the existing estimates of Cl atom levels in marine air are based on indirect evidence. Here we present measurements of the Cl precursors HOCl and Cl2 in the marine boundary layer during June of 2009 at the Cape Verde Atmospheric Observatory in the eastern tropical Atlantic. These are the first measurements of tropospheric HOCl. HOCl and Cl2 levels were low in air with open ocean back trajectories, with maximum levels always below 60 and 10 ppt (pmol/mol), respectively. In air with trajectories originating over Europe, HOCl and Cl2 levels were higher, with HOCl maxima exceeding 100 ppt each day and Cl2 reaching up to 34 ppt. The increased Cl cycling associated with long distance pollutant transport over the oceans likely impacts a wide geographic area and represents a mechanism by which human activities have increased the reactivity of the marine atmosphere. The data indicate that Cl atoms accounted for as much as 15% of the methane destruction at this site during the study period. A photochemical model does not adequately simulate the observed abundances of HOCl and Cl2, raising the possibility of an unknown HOCl source.