Missing peroxy radical sources within a summertime ponderosa pine forest
Abstract. Organic peroxy (RO2) and hydroperoxy (HO2) radicals are key intermediates in the photochemical processes that generate ozone, secondary organic aerosol and reactive nitrogen reservoirs throughout the troposphere. In regions with ample biogenic hydrocarbons, the richness and complexity of peroxy radical chemistry presents a significant challenge to current-generation models, especially given the scarcity of measurements in such environments. We present peroxy radical observations acquired within a ponderosa pine forest during the summer 2010 Bio-hydro-atmosphere interactions of Energy, Aerosols, Carbon, H2O, Organics and Nitrogen – Rocky Mountain Organic Carbon Study (BEACHON-ROCS). Total peroxy radical mixing ratios reach as high as 180 pptv (parts per trillion by volume) and are among the highest yet recorded. Using the comprehensive measurement suite to constrain a near-explicit 0-D box model, we investigate the sources, sinks and distribution of peroxy radicals below the forest canopy. The base chemical mechanism underestimates total peroxy radicals by as much as a factor of 3. Since primary reaction partners for peroxy radicals are either measured (NO) or underpredicted (HO2 and RO2, i.e., self-reaction), missing sources are the most likely explanation for this result. A close comparison of model output with observations reveals at least two distinct source signatures. The first missing source, characterized by a sharp midday maximum and a strong dependence on solar radiation, is consistent with photolytic production of HO2. The diel profile of the second missing source peaks in the afternoon and suggests a process that generates RO2 independently of sun-driven photochemistry, such as ozonolysis of reactive hydrocarbons. The maximum magnitudes of these missing sources (~120 and 50 pptv min−1, respectively) are consistent with previous observations alluding to unexpectedly intense oxidation within forests. We conclude that a similar mechanism may underlie many such observations.