Observations of peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) in the upper troposphere by the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment-Fourier Transform Spectrometer (ACE-FTS)

by K A Tereszchuk, D P Moore, J J Harrison, C D Boone, M Park, J J Remedios, W J Randel, P F Bernath
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()


Peroxyacetyl nitrate (CH3CO center dot O2NO2, abbreviated as PAN) is a trace molecular species present in the troposphere and lower stratosphere due primarily to pollution from fuel combustion and the pyrogenic outflows from biomass burning. In the lower troposphere, PAN has a relatively short lifetime and is principally destroyed within a few hours through thermolysis, but it can act as a reservoir and carrier of NOx in the colder temperatures of the upper troposphere, where UV photolysis becomes the dominant loss mechanism. Pyroconvective updrafts from large biomass burning events can inject PAN into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS), providing a means for the long-range transport of NOx. Given the extended lifetimes at these higher altitudes, PAN is readily detectable via satellite remote sensing. A new PAN data product is now available for the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Fourier Transform Spectrometer (ACE-FTS) version 3.0 data set. We report observations of PAN in boreal biomass burning plumes recorded during the BORTAS (quantifying the impact of BOReal forest fires on Tropospheric oxidants over the Atlantic using Aircraft and Satellites) campaign (12 July to 3 August 2011). The retrieval method employed by incorporating laboratory-recorded absorption cross sections into version 3.0 of the ACE-FTS forward model and retrieval software is described in full detail. The estimated detection limit for ACE-FTS PAN is 5 pptv, and the total systematic error contribution to the ACE-FTS PAN retrieval is similar to 16 %. The retrieved volume mixing ratio (VMR) profiles are compared to coincident measurements made by the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) instrument on the European Space Agency (ESA) Environmental Satellite (ENVISAT). The MIPAS measurements demonstrated good agreement with the ACE-FTS VMR profiles for PAN, where the measured VMR values are well within the associated measurement errors for both instruments and comparative measurements differ no more than 70 pptv. The ACE-FTS PAN data set is used to obtain zonal mean distributions of seasonal averages from similar to 5-20 km. A strong seasonality is clearly observed for PAN concentrations in the global UTLS. Since the principal source of PAN in the UTLS is due to lofted biomass burning emissions from the pyroconvective updrafts created by large fires, the observed seasonality in enhanced PAN coincides with fire activity in different geographical regions throughout the year.

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