Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 1575-1607, 2013
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Observations of peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) in the upper troposphere by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Fourier Transform Spectrometer (ACE-FTS)
K. A. Tereszchuk1, D. P. Moore2, J. J. Harrison1, C. D. Boone3, M. Park4, J. J. Remedios2, W. J. Randel4, and P. F. Bernath1,5
1Department of Chemistry, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK
2Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
3Department of Chemistry, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada
4National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, Colorado, USA
5Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529-0126, USA

Abstract. Peroxyacetyl nitrate (CH3CO·O2NO2, abbreviated as PAN) is a trace molecular species present in the troposphere and lower stratosphere due primarily to pollution from fuel combustion and the pyrogenic outflows from biomass burning. In the lower troposphere, PAN has a relatively short life-time and is principally destroyed within a few hours through thermolysis, but it can act as a reservoir and carrier of NOx in the colder temperatures of the upper troposphere where UV photolysis becomes the dominant loss mechanism. Pyroconvective updrafts from large biomass burning events can inject PAN into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS), providing a means for the long-range transport of NOx. Given the extended lifetimes at these higher altitudes, PAN is readily detectable via satellite remote sensing.

A new PAN data product is now available for the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Fourier Transform Spectrometer (ACE-FTS) Version 3.0 data set. We report measurements of PAN in Boreal biomass burning plumes recorded during the Quantifying the impact of BOReal forest fires on Tropospheric oxidants over the Atlantic using Aircraft and Satellites (BORTAS) campaign. The retrieval method employed and errors analysis are described in full detail.

The retrieved volume mixing ratio (VMR) profiles are compared to coincident measurements made by the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) instrument on the European Space Agency (ESA) ENVIronmental SATellite (ENVISAT). Three ACE-FTS occultations containing measurements of Boreal biomass burning outflows, recorded during BORTAS, were identified as having coincident measurements with MIPAS. In each case, the MIPAS measurements demonstrated good agreement with the ACE-FTS VMR profiles for PAN.

The ACE-FTS PAN data set is used to obtain zonal mean distributions of seasonal averages from ~5 to 20 km. A strong seasonality is clearly observed for PAN concentrations in the global UTLS. Since the principal source of PAN in the UTLS is due to lofted biomass burning emissions from the pyroconvective updrafts created by large fires, the observed seasonality in enhanced PAN coincides with fire activity in different geographical regions throughout the year.

This work is part of an in-depth investigation that is being conducted in an effort to study the aging and chemical evolution of biomass burning emissions in the UTLS by remote, space-borne measurements made by ACE-FTS to further our understanding of the impact of pyrogenic emissions on atmospheric chemistry. Included in this study will be the addition of new, pyrogenic, volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOCs) and oxygenated volatile organic compounds (OVOCs) to expand upon the already extensive suite of molecules retrieved by ACE-FTS to aid in elucidating biomass burning plume chemistry in the free troposphere.

Citation: Tereszchuk, K. A., Moore, D. P., Harrison, J. J., Boone, C. D., Park, M., Remedios, J. J., Randel, W. J., and Bernath, P. F.: Observations of peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) in the upper troposphere by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Fourier Transform Spectrometer (ACE-FTS), Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 1575-1607, doi:10.5194/acpd-13-1575-2013, 2013.
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