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Small Interannual Variability of Global Atmospheric Hydroxyl

Science  07 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6013, pp. 67-69
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197640

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Abstract

The oxidizing capacity of the global atmosphere is largely determined by hydroxyl (OH) radicals and is diagnosed by analyzing methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3) measurements. Previously, large year-to-year changes in global mean OH concentrations have been inferred from such measurements, suggesting that the atmospheric oxidizing capacity is sensitive to perturbations by widespread air pollution and natural influences. We show how the interannual variability in OH has been more precisely estimated from CH3CCl3 measurements since 1998, when atmospheric gradients of CH3CCl3 had diminished as a result of the Montreal Protocol. We infer a small interannual OH variability as a result, indicating that global OH is generally well buffered against perturbations. This small variability is consistent with measurements of methane and other trace gases oxidized primarily by OH, as well as global photochemical model calculations.

  • Present address: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, D-82234 Wessling, Germany.

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