Airborne measurements of formaldehyde (CH2O) were acquired employing tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) during the 2000 Tropospheric Ozone Production About the Spring Equinox (TOPSE) study. This study consisted of seven deployments spanning the time period from 4 February to 23 May 2000 and covered a wide latitudinal band from 40°N to 85°N. The median measured CH2O concentrations, with a few exceptions, did not show any clear temporal trends from February to May in each of five altitude and three latitude bins examined. Detailed measurement–model comparisons were carried out using a variety of approaches employing two different steady state models. Because recent emissions of CH2O and/or its precursors often result in model underpredictions, background conditions were identified using a number of chemical tracers. For background conditions at temperatures warmer than −45°C, the measurement–model agreement on average ranged between −13% and +5% (measurement–model/measurement), which corresponded to mean and median (measurement–model) differences of 3 ± 69 and −6 parts per trillion by volume (pptv), respectively. At very low temperatures starting at around −45°C, significant and persistent (measurement–model) differences were observed from February to early April from southern Canada to the Arctic Ocean in the 6–8 km altitude range. In such cases, measured CH2O was as much as 392 pptv higher than modeled, and the median difference was 132 pptv (83%). Low light conditions as well as cold temperatures may be important in this effect. A number of possible mechanisms involving the reaction of CH3O2 with HO2 to produce CH2O directly were investigated, but in each case the discrepancy was only minimally reduced. Other possibilities were also considered but in each case there was no compelling evidence to support any of the hypotheses. Whatever the cause, the elevated CH2O concentrations significantly impact upper tropospheric HOx levels at high latitudes (>57°N) in the February–April time frame.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

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Journal of Geophysical Research



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Copyright 2003 by the American Geophysical Union.