Articles | Volume 12, issue 22
Research article
22 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 22 Nov 2012

Heterogeneous chlorine activation on stratospheric aerosols and clouds in the Arctic polar vortex

T. Wegner, J.-U. Grooß, M. von Hobe, F. Stroh, O. Sumińska-Ebersoldt, C. M. Volk, E. Hösen, V. Mitev, G. Shur, and R. Müller

Abstract. Chlorine activation in the Arctic is investigated by examining different parameterizations for uptake coefficients on stratospheric aerosols, high-resolution in-situ measurements and vortex-wide satellite observations. The parameterizations for heterogeneous chemistry on liquid aerosols are most sensitive to temperature with the reaction rates doubling for every 1 K increase in temperature. However, differences between the currently available parameterizations are negligible. For Nitric Acid Trihydrate particles (NAT) the major factors of uncertainty are the number density of nucleated particles and different parameterizations for heterogeneous chemistry. These two factors induce an uncertainty that covers several orders of magnitude on the reaction rate. Nonetheless, since predicted reaction rates on liquid aerosols always exceed those on NAT, the overall uncertainty for chlorine activation is small. In-situ observations of ClOx from Arctic winters in 2005 and 2010 are used to evaluate the heterogeneous chemistry parameterizations. The conditions for these measurements proved to be very different between those two winters with HCl being the limiting reacting partner for the 2005 measurements and ClONO2 for the 2010 measurements. Modeled levels of chlorine activation are in very good agreement with the in-situ observations and the surface area provided by Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs) has only a limited impact on modeled chlorine activation. This indicates that the parameterizations give a good representation of the processes in the atmosphere. Back-trajectories started on the location of the observations in 2005 indicate temperatures on the threshold for PSC formation, hence the surface area is mainly provided by the background aerosol. Still, the model shows additional chlorine activation during this time-frame, providing cautionary evidence for chlorine activation even in the absence of PSCs. Vortex-averaged satellite observations by the MLS instrument also show no definite connection between chlorine activation and PSC formation. The inter -and intra-annual variability of vortex-average HCl and HNO3 based on MLS observations is examined for the Arctic winters 2004/2005 to 2010/2011. These observations show that removal of HCl and HNO3 from the gas-phase are not correlated. HNO3 loss exhibits great inter-annual variability depending on prevailing temperatures while HCl loss is continuous through December without considerable inter- or intra-annual variability. Only the recovery of HCl in late winter depends on the level of denitrification. Hence, the occurrence of HNO3 containing PSC particles does not seem to have a significant effect on the speed of initial chlorine activation on a vortex-wide scale.

Final-revised paper