Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bleach in the Icelandic Volcanic Cloud

27.05.2011
Chlorine in the ash plume of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull attacked atmospheric trace gases

One year after the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland brought European air traffic to a standstill its ash plume revealed a surprising scientific finding: Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz found that the ash plume contained not only the common volcanic gas sulfur dioxide, but also free chlorine radicals.


CARIBIC flight track from Frankfurt to the British Isles on May 16. The dots indicate air sampling locations. The colored regions depict the extent of the volcanic ash cloud as calculated using meteorological models, with red/yellow indicating high and purple low amounts of particles. Figure taken from Baker et al., 2011 (GRL).

Chlorine radicals are extremely reactive and even small amounts can have a profound impact on local atmospheric chemistry. The findings, which will be published in “Geophysical Research Letters“ give solid evidence of volcanic plume chlorine radical chemistry and allowed calculations of chlorine radical concentrations.

It has been known for some time that volcanic eruptions emit chlorine-containing gases, causing scientists to suspect that highly reactive chlorine radicals could also be present. However, sufficient experimental evidence proved elusive. That changed when researchers analyzed air collected in the ash cloud emitted by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. During three special flights conducted by Lufthansa in spring 2010 using the CARIBIC atmospheric measurement container, researchers collected air samples which they brought back to their laboratory in Mainz for analysis. Among the compounds they looked for were hydrocarbons.

”Each volcano has its own character”, says Angela Baker, lead author of the paper. “We found that hydrocarbon concentrations were up to 70% lower inside the Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud than outside. Reaction with chlorine radicals was the only realistic explanation for the hydrocarbon losses. And further investigation confirmed that free chlorine radicals were the cause“. The scientists calculated concentrations of up to 66,000 chlorine atoms per cubic centimeter of air. While modest compared to concentrations of other gases, chlorine radicals are normally absent, and it does not take much of these very reactive atoms to have a noticeable impact on atmospheric chemistry.

Hydrocarbons like propane and butane can be found even in the cleanest and most remote parts of the lower atmosphere. Normally they are removed when they react with hydroxyl radicals, but they react many times faster with chlorine radicals. In doing so the chlorine reactions leave their specific ”signature“ on the mixture of hydrocarbons in the air. This signature can, in turn, be used to calculate how many chlorine radicals were present. The Max Planck scientists who calculated volcanic ash cloud chlorine radical concentrations for the first time anticipate that similar results will be found in plumes from other volcanoes, such as the currently erupting Grimsvötn. They also hope that their method will be used during future studies to identify and understand volcanic chlorine radical chemistry.

About the CARIBIC measurement container
CARIBIC is a unique project based on an airfreight container equipped for extensive global scale atmospheric measurement. The CARIBIC system was developed in Germany in cooperation with ten institutes from six European countries. CARIBIC is being coordinated by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. The flying laboratory travels each month for four long distance flights aboard the Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 “Leverkusen“.

Outside air containing trace gases and aerosol particles is collected during the entire flight by a dedicated inlet probe underneath the aircraft’s hull and fed into the measurement equipment inside the container. The container was deployed during three special flights to probe parts of the volcanic plume of the Eyjafjallyjökull on Iceland that erupted in April and May 2010.

The equipment in the container detects over 50 different atmospheric species, including greenhouse gases, ozone, CFCs, water vapor and aerosols. The detailed dataset helps to locate sources of air pollution, to find out how air pollution is transported and how the atmosphere cleans itself. In this way, by using in-service passenger aircraft one can obtain a precise picture of the atmosphere’s composition and processes at reasonable cost. CARIBIC is enabled by Lufthansa and sponsored by Frankfurt Airport since 2009.

For further information about the measurement container and the project, please visit http://www.caribic-atmospheric.com

About the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
Research at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (260 staff) focuses on the Earth and its atmosphere at different scales, from nano particles up to planets and from ecosystems to global climate change. Three divisions investigate the planetary system by means of field expeditions, laboratory experiments, and computer model studies. Accordingly the institute contributes to fundamental knowledge of natural resources of the Earth and delivers the necessary tools for environmental protection and sustainable development and use of resources. Having an international research school and an e-learning program, the Institute also participates in science education. Next year the Institute celebrates its 100 year of existence. Further information: http://www.mpic.de
Publication:
Angela K. Baker, Armin Rauthe-Schöch, Tanja J. Schuck, Carl A. M. Brenninkmeijer, Peter F. J. van Velthoven, Adam Wisher, David E. Oram
Investigation of chlorine radical chemistry in the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic plume using observed depletions in non-methane hydrocarbons

Geophysical Research Letters, in press, 2011

Contact:
Dr. Angela K. Baker
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Phone: +49 6131-305 416
E-mail: angela.baker@mpic.de
Dr. Carl A. M. Brenninkmeijer
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Phone: +49 6131-305 305
E-mail: carl.brenninkmeijer@mpic.de

Dr. Wolfgang Huisl | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:
http://www.mpic.de
http://www.caribic-atmospheric.com

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>