Sulfur Puzzles

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Science  18 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5631, pp. 273
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5631.273a

In addition to their adverse health effects, sulfate aerosols exert a large influence on cloud formation and therefore on Earth's climate. Models for the formation of sulfate aerosols on a global scale generally underestimate their abundance. Laskin et al. (p. 340) present results from laboratory simulations which show that OH reacts with NaCl, the major component of sea-spray particles, to generate OH in the particles. This process buffers the pH within the particles and causes certain reactions to “self-quench,” and ultimately leads to increased production of sulfate. This mechanism may also clarify a number of other puzzling observations about the chemical composition of sea-salt aerosols.

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