Carbon Monoxide Balance in Nature

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Science  21 Apr 1972:
Vol. 176, Issue 4032, pp. 290-292
DOI: 10.1126/science.176.4032.290


Consideration of the steady-state equations for stable carbon monoxide and for radioactive carbon monoxide in the troposphere leads to the conclusion that carbon monoxide is produced at a rate of 5x1015 grams per year, a value some 25 times greater than the rate of carbon monoxide production from combustion. The concomitant residence time for carbon monoxide is 0.1 year, in agreement with a previous estimate of Weinstock. Hydroxyl radicals are shown to account for both the production of this large amount of carbon monoxide by methane oxidation and for its removal by carbon monoxide oxidation. The average concentration of hydroxyl radicals in the troposphere required to achieve this effect is 2.3x106 molecules per cubic centimeter, with a daytime concentration of twice that. Levy and McConnell, McElroy, and Wofsy have deduced concentrations of hydroxyl radicals in the troposphere of the same magnitude from purely photochemical considerations, in support of this model.

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