Latitudinal, vertical, and seasonal variations of C1-C4 alkyl nitrates in the troposphere over the Pacific Ocean during PEM-Tropics A and B: Oceanic and continental sources

Nicola J. Blake, Donald R. Blake, Aaron L. Swanson, Elliot Atlas, Frank Flocke, F. Sherwood Rowland

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70 Scopus citations


We present concentration distributions of C1-C4 alkyl nitrates observed during the NASA airborne campaigns Pacific Exploratory Mission (PEM) - Tropics A (September-October 1996) and PEM-Tropics B (March-April 1999). The total geographic range for PEM-Tropics A was 45°N-72°S latitude and 153°E-75°W longitude, and for PEM-Tropics B was 40°N-36°S latitude and 149°E-75°W longitude. The maximum altitude for these missions was 12 km. These experiments provide the most extensive set of tropospheric measurements collected to date over the tropical Pacific Ocean. We observed high methyl nitrate (MeONO2, CH3ONO2) mixing ratios (approximately 50 pptv) at low altitudes in a latitude band between 8°N to 13°S stretching across the equatorial Pacific, illustrating the oceanic source of MeONO2. This source may be associated with the high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll character of equatorial Pacific waters. We discuss MeONO2 and ethyl nitrate (EtONO2, C2H5ONO2), whose abundance is dominated by equatorial oceanic sources, 2-Propyl nitrate (2-PrONO2, 2-C3H7ONO2), which has significant oceanic and northern hemispheric (NH) sources associated with urban/industrial hydrocarbon emissions, and 2-butyl nitrate (2-BuONO2 2-C4H8ONO2), which has mostly NH sources. PEM-Tropics A and B resulted in remarkably similar equatorial mixing ratios. The excellent correlations between MeONO2 and the other alkyl nitrates in this region produced comparable correlation slopes between the two expeditions. By contrast, NH air masses influenced by urban/industrial emissions typically exhibited much lower MeONO2:EtONO2, MeONO2:2-PrONO2, and MeONO2:2-BuONO2 ratios. These relationships can be useful as a diagnostic of air mass origin. North of 10°N, the springtime PEM-Tropics B mixing ratios Of C2-C4 alkyl nitrates were many-fold higher at low-mid altitudes than for late summer PEM-Tropics A, consistent with strong continental outflow of NMHC precursors during spring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)PEM 14-1 PEM 14-13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 27 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Airborne measurements
  • Butyl nitrate
  • Equatorial ocean emissions
  • Ethyl nitrate
  • Methyl nitrate
  • Organic nitrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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