Springtime nitrogen oxide-influenced chlorine chemistry in the coastal arctic

Stephen M. McNamara, Angela R.W. Raso, Siyuan Wang, Sham Thanekar, Eric J. Boone, Katheryn R. Kolesar, Peter K. Peterson, William R. Simpson, Jose D. Fuentes, Paul B. Shepson, Kerri A. Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Atomic chlorine (Cl) is a strong atmospheric oxidant that shortens the lifetimes of pollutants and methane in the springtime Arctic, where the molecular halogens Cl2 and BrCl are known Cl precursors. Here, we quantify the contributions of reactive chlorine trace gases and present the first observations, to our knowledge, of ClNO2 (another Cl precursor), N2O5, and HO2NO2 in the Arctic. During March - May 2016 near Utqiaġvik, Alaska, up to 21 ppt of ClNO2, 154 ppt of Cl2, 27 ppt of ClO, 71 ppt of N2O5, 21 ppt of BrCl, and 153 ppt of HO2NO2 were measured using chemical ionization mass spectrometry. The main Cl precursor was calculated to be Cl2 (up to 73%) in March, while BrCl was a greater contributor (63%) in May, when total Cl production was lower. Elevated levels of ClNO2, N2O5, Cl2, and HO2NO2 coincided with pollution influence from the nearby town of Utqiaġvik and the North Slope of Alaska (Prudhoe Bay) Oilfields. We propose a coupled mechanism linking NOx with Arctic chlorine chemistry. Enhanced Cl2 was likely the result of the multiphase reaction of Cl- (aq) with ClONO2, formed from the reaction of ClO and NO2. In addition to this NOx-enhanced chlorine chemistry, Cl2 and BrCl were observed under clean Arctic conditions from snowpack photochemical production. These connections between NOx and chlorine chemistry, and the role of snowpack recycling, are important given increasing shipping and fossil fuel extraction predicted to accompany Arctic sea ice loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8057-8067
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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