Articles | Volume 14, issue 19
Research article
07 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 07 Oct 2014

Temporal variations in rainwater methanol

J. D. Felix, S. B. Jones, G. B. Avery, J. D. Willey, R. N. Mead, and R. J. Kieber

Abstract. This work reports the first comprehensive analysis of methanol concentrations in rainwater. Methanol concentrations measured in 49 rain events collected between 28 August 2007 and 10 July 2008 in Wilmington, NC, USA, ranged from below the detection limit of 6 nM to 9.3 μM with a volume-weighted average concentration of 1 ± 0.2 μM. Methanol concentrations in rainwater were up to ~200 times greater than concentrations reported previously in marine waters, indicating wet deposition as a potentially significant source of methanol to marine waters. Assuming that these methanol concentrations are an appropriate proxy for global methanol rainwater concentrations, the global methanol wet deposition sink is estimated as 20 Tg yr−1, which implies that previous methanol budgets underestimate removal by precipitation. Methanol concentrations in rainwater did not correlate significantly with H+, NO3, and NSS, which suggests that the dominant source of the alcohol to rainwater is not anthropogenic. However, methanol concentrations were strongly correlated with acetaldehyde, which has a primarily biogenic input. The methanol volume-weighted concentration during the summer (2.7 ± 0.9 μM) was ~3 times that of the winter (0.9 ± 0.2 μM), further promoting biogenic emissions as the primary cause of temporal variations of methanol concentrations. Methanol concentrations peaked in rainwater collected during the time period 12 p.m.–6 p.m. Peaking during this period of optimal sunlight implies a possible relationship with photochemical methanol production, but there are also increases in biogenic activity during this time period. Rain events with terrestrial origin had greater concentrations than those of marine origin, demonstrating the significance of the continental source of methanol in rainwater.

Final-revised paper