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We report increasing levels of alkyl nitrates in the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere between 1960 and the mid-1990s. These increases are symptomatic of large-scale changes to the chemical composition of the atmosphere, particularly with regards to the amounts of short-lived, reactive species. The observed increases are likely driven by increasing levels of nitrogen oxides. These changes have direct implications for the lifetimes of climate-relevant species in the atmosphere, such as methane.
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Articles | Volume 17, issue 13
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 8269–8283, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-17-8269-2017
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 8269–8283, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-17-8269-2017

Research article 07 Jul 2017

Research article | 07 Jul 2017

Changes to the chemical state of the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere during the second half of the twentieth century

Mike J. Newland et al.

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Aydin, M., Verhulst, K. R., Saltzman, E. S., Battle, M. O., Montzka, S. A., Blake, D. R., Tang, Q., and Prather, M. J.: Recent decreases in fossil-fuel emissions of ethane and methane derived from firn air, Nature, 476, 198–201, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10352, 2011.
Baker, A. K., Slemr, F., and Brenninkmeijer, C. A. M.: Analysis of non-methane hydrocarbons in air samples collected aboard the CARIBIC passenger aircraft, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 3, 311–321, https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-3-311-2010, 2010.
Battle, M., Bender, M., Sowers, T., Tans, P. P., Butler, J. H., Elkins, J. W., Ellis, J. T., Conway, T., Zhang, N., Lang, P., and Clarke, A. D.: Atmospheric gas concentrations over the past century measured in air from firn at the South Pole, Nature, 383, 231–235, 1996.
Berglen, T. F., Myhre, G., Isaksen, I. S. A., Vestreng, V., and Smith, S. J.: Sulphate trends in Europe: Are we able to model the recent observed decrease?, Tellus B, 59, 773–786, 2007.
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Short summary
We report increasing levels of alkyl nitrates in the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere between 1960 and the mid-1990s. These increases are symptomatic of large-scale changes to the chemical composition of the atmosphere, particularly with regards to the amounts of short-lived, reactive species. The observed increases are likely driven by increasing levels of nitrogen oxides. These changes have direct implications for the lifetimes of climate-relevant species in the atmosphere, such as methane.
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