Airborne observations over the North Atlantic Ocean reveal the importance of gas-phase urea in the atmosphere

Matthews, E, Bannan, TJ, Khan, MAH, Shallcross, DE, Stark, H, Browne, EC, Archibald, AT, Mehra, A, Bauguitte, SJB, Reed, C, Thamban, NM, Wu, H, Barker, P, Lee, J, Carpenter, LJ, Yang, M, Bell, TG, Allen, G, Jayne, JT, Percival, CJ, McFiggans, G, Gallagher, M and Coe, H 2023 Airborne observations over the North Atlantic Ocean reveal the importance of gas-phase urea in the atmosphere. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120 (25).

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Reduced nitrogen (N) is central to global biogeochemistry, yet there are large uncertainties surrounding its sources and rate of cycling. Here, we present observations of gas-phase urea (CO(NH2)2) in the atmosphere from airborne high-resolution mass spectrometer measurements over the North Atlantic Ocean. We show that urea is ubiquitous in the lower troposphere in the summer, autumn, and winter but was not detected in the spring. The observations suggest that the ocean is the primary emission source, but further studies are required to understand the responsible mechanisms. Urea is also observed aloft due to long-range transport of biomass-burning plumes. These observations alongside global model simulations point to urea being an important, and currently unaccounted for, component of reduced-N to the remote marine atmosphere. Airborne transfer of urea between nutrient-rich and -poor parts of the ocean can occur readily and could impact ecosystems and oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide, with potentially important climate implications.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Additional Keywords: atmosphere | ocean | mass spectrometry | nitrogen cycling
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Marine Biochemistry and Observations
Depositing User: S Hawkins
Date made live: 21 May 2024 11:54
Last Modified: 21 May 2024 11:54

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