Rapid formation of isoprene photo-oxidation products observed in Amazonia
1National Center for Atmospheric Research, 1850 Table Mesa Dr, Boulder, 80301, CO, USA
2Instituto de Fisica, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
3School of Engineering and Applied Sciences & Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Abstract. Isoprene represents the single most important reactive hydrocarbon for atmospheric chemistry in the tropical atmosphere. It plays a central role in global and regional atmospheric chemistry and possible climate feedbacks. Photo-oxidation of primary hydrocarbons (e.g. isoprene) leads to the formation of oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs). The evolution of these intermediates affects the oxidative capacity of the atmosphere (by reacting with OH) and can contribute to secondary aerosol formation, a poorly understood process. An accurate and quantitative understanding of VOC oxidation processes is needed for model simulations of regional air quality and global climate. Based on field measurements conducted during the Amazonian aerosol characterization experiment (AMAZE-08) we show that the production of certain OVOCs (e.g. hydroxyacetone) from isoprene photo-oxidation in the lower atmosphere is significantly underpredicted by standard chemistry schemes. A recently suggested novel pathway for isoprene peroxy radicals could explain the observed discrepancy and reconcile the rapid formation of these VOCs. Furthermore, if generalized our observations suggest that prompt photochemical formation of OVOCs and other uncertainties in VOC oxidation schemes could result in substantial underestimates of modelled OH reactivity that could explain a major fraction of the missing OH sink over forests which has previously been attributed to a missing source of primary biogenic VOCs.