Report

Soil Nitrite as a Source of Atmospheric HONO and OH Radicals

Science  18 Aug 2011:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1207687

Abstract

Hydroxyl radicals (OH) are a key species in atmospheric photochemistry. In the lower atmosphere, up to ~30% of the primary OH radical production is attributed to the photolysis of nitrous acid (HONO), and field observations suggest a large missing source of HONO. We show that soil nitrite can release HONO and explain the reported strength and diurnal variation of the missing source. Fertilized soils with low pH appear to be particularly strong sources of HONO and OH. Thus, agricultural activities and land-use changes may strongly influence the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere. Due to the widespread occurrence of nitrite-producing microbes, the release of HONO from soil may also be important in natural environments, including forests and boreal regions.