The impact of snow nitrate photolysis on boundary layer chemistry and the recycling and redistribution of reactive nitrogen across Antarctica and Greenland in a global chemical transport model
- 1Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
- 2Division of Glaciology, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
- anow at: MathWorks, Natick, MA, USA
Abstract. The formation and recycling of reactive nitrogen (NO, NO2, HONO) at the air–snow interface has implications for air quality and the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere in snow-covered regions. Nitrate (NO3−) photolysis in snow provides a source of oxidants (e.g., hydroxyl radical) and oxidant precursors (e.g., nitrogen oxides) to the overlying boundary layer, and alters the concentration and isotopic (e.g., δ15N) signature of NO3− preserved in ice cores. We have incorporated an idealized snowpack with a NO3− photolysis parameterization into a global chemical transport model (Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) Chemistry model, GEOS-Chem) to examine the implications of snow NO3− photolysis for boundary layer chemistry, the recycling and redistribution of reactive nitrogen, and the preservation of ice-core NO3− in ice cores across Antarctica and Greenland, where observations of these parameters over large spatial scales are difficult to obtain. A major goal of this study is to examine the influence of meteorological parameters and chemical, optical, and physical snow properties on the magnitudes and spatial patterns of snow-sourced NOx fluxes and the recycling and redistribution of reactive nitrogen across Antarctica and Greenland. Snow-sourced NOx fluxes are most influenced by temperature-dependent quantum yields of NO3− photolysis, photolabile NO3− concentrations in snow, and concentrations of light-absorbing impurities (LAIs) in snow. Despite very different assumptions about snowpack properties, the range of model-calculated snow-sourced NOx fluxes are similar in Greenland (0.5–11 × 108 molec cm−2 s−1) and Antarctica (0.01–6.4 × 108 molec cm−2 s−1) due to the opposing effects of higher concentrations of both photolabile NO3− and LAIs in Greenland compared to Antarctica. Despite the similarity in snow-sourced NOx fluxes, these fluxes lead to smaller factor increases in mean austral summer boundary layer mixing ratios of total nitrate (HNO3+ NO3−), NOx, OH, and O3 in Greenland compared to Antarctica because of Greenland's proximity to pollution sources. The degree of nitrogen recycling in the snow is dependent on the relative magnitudes of snow-sourced NOx fluxes versus primary NO3− deposition. Recycling of snow NO3− in Greenland is much less than in Antarctica Photolysis-driven loss of snow NO3− is largely dependent on the time that NO3− remains in the snow photic zone (up to 6.5 years in Antarctica and 7 months in Greenland), and wind patterns that redistribute snow-sourced reactive nitrogen across Antarctica and Greenland. The loss of snow NO3− is higher in Antarctica (up to 99 %) than in Greenland (up to 83 %) due to deeper snow photic zones and lower snow accumulation rates in Antarctica. Modeled enrichments in ice-core δ15N(NO3−) due to photolysis-driven loss of snow NO3− ranges from 0 to 363 ‰ in Antarctica and 0 to 90 ‰ in Greenland, with the highest fraction of NO3− loss and largest enrichments in ice-core δ15N(NO3−) at high elevations where snow accumulation rates are lowest. There is a strong relationship between the degree of photolysis-driven loss of snow NO3− and the degree of nitrogen recycling between the air and snow throughout all of Greenland and in Antarctica where snow accumulation rates are greater than 130 kg m−2 a−1 in the present day.