Regional and global impacts of Criegee intermediates on atmospheric sulphuric acid concentrations and first steps of aerosol formation

Carl J. Percival, Oliver Welz, Arkke J. Eskola, John D. Savee, David L. Osborn, David O. Topping, Douglas Lowe, Steven R. Utembe, Asan Bacak, Gordon Mfiggans, Michael C. Cooke, Ping Xiao, Alexander T. Archibald, Michael E. Jenkin, Richard G. Derwent, Ilona Riipinen, Kam Wah Mok, Edmond P.F. Lee, John M. Dyke, Craig A. TaatjesDudley E. Shallcross

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Carbonyl oxides ("Criegee intermediates"), formed in the ozonolysis of alkenes, are key species in tropospheric oxidation of organic molecules and their decomposition provides a non-photolytic source of OH in the atmosphere (Johnson and Marston, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2008, 37, 699, Harrison et al., Sci. Total Environ., 2006, 360, 5, Gäb et al., Nature, 1985, 316, 535, ref. 1-3). Recently it was shown that small Criegee intermediates, C.I.'s, react far more rapidly with SO2than typically represented in tropospheric models, (Welz, Science, 2012, 335, 204, ref. 4) which suggested that carbonyl oxides could have a substantial influence on the atmospheric oxidation of SO2. Oxidation of SO2is the main atmospheric source of sulphuric acid (H2SO4), which is a critical contributor to aerosol formation, although questions remain about the fundamental nucleation mechanism (Sipilä et al., Science, 2010, 327, 1243, Metzger et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 2010 107, 6646, Kirkby et al., Nature, 2011, 476, 429, ref. 5-7). Non-absorbing atmospheric aerosols, by scattering incoming solar radiation and acting as cloud condensation nuclei, have a cooling effect on climate (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Cambridge University Press, 2007, ref. 8). Here we explore the effect of the Criegees on atmospheric chemistry, and demonstrate that ozonolysis of alkenes via the reaction of Criegee intermediates potentially has a large impact on atmospheric sulphuric acid concentrations and consequently the first steps in aerosol production. Reactions of Criegee intermediates with SO2will compete with and in places dominate over the reaction of OH with SO2(the only other known gas-phase source of H2SO4) in many areas of the Earth's surface. In the case that the products of Criegee intermediate reactions predominantly result in H2SO4formation, modelled particle nucleation rates can be substantially increased by the improved experimentally obtained estimates of the rate coefficients of Criegee intermediate reactions. Using both regional and global scale modelling, we show that this enhancement is likely to be highly variable spatially with local hot-spots in e.g. urban outflows. This conclusion is however contingent on a number of remaining uncertainties in Criegee intermediate chemistry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-73
Number of pages29
JournalFaraday Discussions
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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