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DOAS measurements of formaldehyde and glyoxal above a south-east Asian tropical rainforest

by S. M. MacDonald, H. Oetjen, A. S. Mahajan, L. K. Whalley, P. M. Edwards, D. E. Heard, C. E. Jones, J. M C Plane
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()
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Tropical rainforests act as a huge contributor to the global emissions of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). Measurements of their oxidation products, such as formaldehyde (HCHO) and glyoxal (CHOCHO), provide useful indicators of fast photochemistry occurring in the lower troposphere. However, measurements of these species in tropical forest locations are extremely limited. To redress this, HCHO and CHOCHO were measured using the long-path (LP) and multi-axis (MAX) differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS) techniques above the rainforest canopy in Borneo during two campaigns in spring and summer 2008, as part of the Oxidant and Particle Photochemical Processes above a south-east Asian tropical rainforest (OP3) project. The results were compared with concurrent measurements of hydroxyl radical (OH), isoprene (C5H8) (which was the dominant organic species emitted in this forest environment), and various meteorological parameters. Formaldehyde was observed at a maximum concentration of 4.5 ppb and glyoxal at a maximum of 1.6 ppb, significantly higher than previous measurements in rural locations. A 1-D chemistry model was then used to assess the diurnal evolution of formaldehyde and glyoxal throughout the boundary layer. The results, which compare well with the LP-DOAS and MAX-DOAS observations, suggest that the majority of the glyoxal and formaldehyde is confined to the first 500 m of the boundary layer, and that the measured ratio of these species is reproduced using currently accepted product yields for the oxidation of isoprene by OH. An important conclusion is that the measured levels of glyoxal are consistent with the surprisingly high concentrations of OH measured in this environment.

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