OCS, stratospheric aerosols and climate

Abstract

Carbonyl sulphide (OCS) is found to be the predominant sulphur-bearing compound in our atmosphere1–3. It contributes to the formation of stratospheric sulphate aerosol particles4, which affect the Earth's radiation balance and climate5–7. Using recently obtained data, we estimate that OCS has a global source of 5 tg per year (tg = 1012 g) and a lifetime of roughly 1 yr. We calculate that increasing anthropogenic emissions of OCS could cause measurable climate alterations within the next century. Numerous sources of OCS have been identified (see Fig. 1). Crutzen et al.8 estimate that natural and agricultural fires contribute 0.2–0.3 tg of OCS to the atmosphere each year. Adams et al.9 measured average OCS emission rates for a variety of common soils of about 0.004 g m−2 yr−1, which may be extrapolated to a global OCS source of nearly 0.5 tg yr−1. Adams et al.9 also noted OCS emissions several thousand times greater than average above saline marshes. Carbonyl sulphide has been detected near cattle feedlots in concentrations as high as 6,000 p.p.b.v.10. Volcanoes and fumaroles seem to represent a minor source of OCS (refs 11,12). We estimate that the direct contributions of biospheric processes to the OCS budget may be 1 tg yr−1.

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Turco, R., Whitten, R., Toon, O. et al. OCS, stratospheric aerosols and climate. Nature 283, 283–285 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1038/283283a0

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