• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Photochemical production of molecular bromine in Arctic surface snowpacks

Nature Geosciences (2013)

Pratt K A, Custard K D, Shepson P B, Douglas T A, Pöhler D, General S, Zielcke J, Simpson W R, Platt U, Tanner D J, Huey L G, Carlsen M and Stirm B H

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1779

Vol 6, pp351–356


Following the springtime polar sunrise, ozone concentrations in the lower troposphere episodically decline to near-zero levels. These ozone depletion events are initiated by an increase in reactive bromine levels in the atmosphere. Under these conditions, the oxidative capacity of the Arctic troposphere is altered, leading to the removal of numerous transported trace gas pollutants, including mercury. However, the sources and mechanisms leading to increased atmospheric reactive bromine levels have remained uncertain, limiting simulations of Arctic atmospheric chemistry with the rapidly transforming sea-ice landscape. Here, we examine the potential for molecular bromine production in various samples of saline snow and sea ice, in the presence and absence of sunlight and ozone, in an outdoor snow chamber in Alaska. Molecular bromine was detected only on exposure of surface snow (collected above tundra and first-year sea ice) to sunlight. This suggests that the oxidation of bromide is facilitated by a photochemical mechanism, which was most efficient for more acidic samples characterized by enhanced bromide to chloride ratios. Molecular bromine concentrations increased significantly when the snow was exposed to ozone, consistent with an interstitial air amplification mechanism. Aircraft-based observations confirm that bromine oxide levels were enhanced near the snow surface. We suggest that the photochemical production of molecular bromine in surface snow serves as a major source of reactive bromine, which leads to the episodic depletion of tropospheric ozone in the Arctic springtime.

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