Interactions of meteoric smoke particles with sulphuric acid in the Earth's stratosphere
Abstract. Nano-sized meteoric smoke particles (MSPs) with iron-magnesium silicate compositions, formed in the upper mesosphere as a result of meteoric ablation, may remove sulphuric acid from the gas-phase above 40 km and may also affect the composition and behaviour of supercooled H2SO4-H2O droplets in the global stratospheric aerosol (Junge) layer.
This study describes a time-resolved spectroscopic analysis of the evolution of the ferric (Fe3+) ion originating from amorphous ferrous (Fe2+)-based silicate powders dissolved in varying Wt % sulphuric acid (30–75 %) solutions over a temperature range of 223–295 K. Complete dissolution of the particles was observed under all conditions. The first-order rate coefficient for dissolution decreases at higher Wt % and lower temperature, which is consistent with the increased solution viscosity limiting diffusion of H2SO4 to the particle surfaces. Dissolution under stratospheric conditions should take less than a week, and is much faster than the dissolution of crystalline Fe2+ compounds.
The chemistry climate model UMSLIMCAT (based on the UKMO Unified Model) was then used to study the transport of MSPs through the middle atmosphere. A series of model experiments were performed with different uptake coefficients. Setting the concentration of 1.5 nm radius MSPs at 80 km to 3000 cm−3 (based on rocket-borne charged particle measurements), the model matches the reported Wt % Fe values of 0.5–1.0 in Junge layer sulphate particles, and the MSP optical extinction between 40 and 75 km measured by a satellite-borne spectrometer, if the global meteoric input rate is about 20 tonnes per day. The model indicates that an uptake coefficient ≥0.01 is required to account for the observed two orders of magnitude depletion of H2SO4 vapour above 40 km.