A biomass burning source of C1 - C4 alkyl nitrates

Isobel J. Simpson, Simone Meinardi, Donald R. Blake, Nicola J. Blake, F. Sherwood Rowland, Elliot Atlas, Frank Flocke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


We report the first observations of the emission of five C1-C4 alkyl nitrates (methyl-, ethyl-, n-propyl-, i-propyl-, and 2-butyl nitrate) from savanna burning. Average alkyl nitrate mixing ratios in the immediate vicinity of three bushfires in Northern Australia were 47-122 times higher than local background mixing ratios. These are the highest alkyl nitrate mixing ratios we have ever detected, with maximum mixing ratios exceeding 3 ppbv for methyl nitrate. Methyl nitrate dominated the alkyl nitrate emissions during the flaming stage of savanna burning, whereas C2-C4 alkyl nitrates were mostly emitted during the smoldering stage. To explain the formation of alkyl nitrates from biomass burning, we propose a reaction mechanism involving the combination of reactive radicals at high temperature. Bearing in mind the uncertainties associated with extrapolating small data sets to much larger scales, alkyl nitrate emissions from global savanna burning are estimated to be on the order of 8 Gg/yr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-1 - 21-4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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