Scientists have known for years about the ocean’s important role in regulating the global climate and also in removing pollutants and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Now, researchers at New York University have found a new mechanism for self-cleaning the marine atmosphere.
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Using observations from the air and at sea level, the researchers investigated the formation of nitrous acid (HNO2) by a process called “renoxification”. In it, nitrate aerosols return to the form of nitrogen oxides and HNO2. The presence of aerosols in the atmosphere is worrying, as they are a source of uncertainty in climate forecasts, as they can reflect or absorb solar radiation depending on their chemical composition.
Furthermore, nitrous acid is an important source of the hydroxyl radical (‧OH) in the atmosphere. This radical acts as a self-cleaning agent, degrading polluting gases and contributors to the greenhouse effect, such as methane (CH4).
Observations were made in the troposphere from remote locations in the Atlantic Ocean. According to Lucy Carpenter, who leads the study, they “showed that the efficiency of renoxification increases with relative humidity and decreases with nitrate concentration.”
The recycling of these nitrogen compounds may have other important implications to be studied by the scientific community. One is the effect on other atmospheric oxidants such as ozone at the troposphere level. Outside the layer that protects the Earth from UV radiation from the Sun, the gas is considered a pollutant and has a very high contribution to the greenhouse effect.
Source: Space Daily