Articles | Volume 11, issue 15
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 7817–7838, 2011
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 7817–7838, 2011

Research article 03 Aug 2011

Research article | 03 Aug 2011

Radon activity in the lower troposphere and its impact on ionization rate: a global estimate using different radon emissions

K. Zhang1,*, J. Feichter1, J. Kazil2,9, H. Wan1, W. Zhuo3, A. D. Griffiths4, H. Sartorius5, W. Zahorowski4, M. Ramonet6, M. Schmidt6, C. Yver6, R. E. M. Neubert7, and E.-G. Brunke8 K. Zhang et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 3Institute of Radiation Medicine, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 4Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights NSW 2234, Australia
  • 5Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), Salzgitter, Germany
  • 6Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, IPSL, CEA, UVSQ, CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 7Centre for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 8South African Weather Service, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • 9NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • *now at: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington, USA

Abstract. The radioactive decay of radon and its progeny can lead to ionization of air molecules and consequently influence aerosol size distribution. In order to provide a global estimate of the radon-related ionization rate, we use the global atmospheric model ECHAM5 to simulate transport and decay processes of the radioactive tracers. A global radon emission map is put together using regional fluxes reported recently in the literature. Near-surface radon concentrations simulated with this new map compare well with measurements.

Radon-related ionization rate is calculated and compared to that caused by cosmic rays. The contribution of radon and its progeny clearly exceeds that of the cosmic rays in the mid- and low-latitude land areas in the surface layer. During cold seasons, at locations where high concentration of sulfuric acid gas and low temperature provide potentially favorable conditions for nucleation, the coexistence of high ionization rate may help enhance the particle formation processes. This suggests that it is probably worth investigating the impact of radon-induced ionization on aerosol-climate interaction in global models.

Final-revised paper