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Proceedings Paper

Problems in global atmospheric chemistry
Author(s): Paul J. Crutzen
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Paper Abstract

The chemistry of the atmosphere is substantially influenced by a wide range of chemical processes which are primarily driven by the action of ultraviolet radiation of wavelengths shorter than 320 nm (UV-B) on ozone and water vapor. This leads to the formation of hydroxyl (OH) radicals which, despite very low tropospheric concentrations, remove most gases that are emitted into the atmosphere by natural and anthropogenic processes. Therefore, although only about 10% of all atmospheric ozone is located in the troposphere, through the formation of OH, it determines the oxidation efficiency of the atmosphere and is, therefore, of the utmost importance for maintaining its chemical composition. Due to a variety of human activities, especially through increasing emissions of CH4, CO, and NOx, the concentrations of tropospheric ozone and hydroxyl are expected to be increasing in polluted and decreasing in clean tropospheric environments. Altogether, this may be leading to an overall decrease in the oxidation efficiency of the atmosphere, contributing to a gradual buildup of several longlived trace gases that are primarily removed by reaction with OH. In the stratosphere, especially due to catalytic reactions of chlorine-containing gases of industrial origin, ozone is being depleted, most drastically noted during the early spring months over Antarctica. Because ozone is the only atmospheric constituent that can significantly absorb solar radiation in the wavelength region 240 - 320 nm, this loss of ozone enhances the penetration of biologically harmful UV-B radiation to the earth's surface with ensuing negative consequences for the biosphere. Several of the aforementioned chemically active trace gases with growing trends in the atmosphere are also efficient greenhouse gases. Together they can exert a warming effect on the earth's climate about equal to that of carbon dioxide.

Paper Details

Date Published: 12 February 1993
PDF: 20 pages
Proc. SPIE 1715, Optical Methods in Atmospheric Chemistry, (12 February 1993); doi: 10.1117/12.140182
Show Author Affiliations
Paul J. Crutzen, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry (Germany)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1715:
Optical Methods in Atmospheric Chemistry
Harold I. Schiff; Ulrich Platt, Editor(s)

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