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Global atmospheric concentrations and source strength of ethane

Nature volume 321, pages 231233 (15 May 1986) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Ethane (C2H6), like other gaseous hydrocarbons, contributes significantly to the chemistry of the lower atmosphere, chiefly through reactions with the OH (hydroxyl) radical, an important tropospheric oxidizing agent. We present here a study of the variation in C2H6 concentration between northern and southern latitudes over 3 years, together with a new estimate of its source strength. Ethane concentrations vary from 0.07 to 3 p.p.b.v. (parts per 109 by volume) in air samples collected in remote surface locations in the Pacific (latitude 71° N–47° S) in all four seasons between September 1984 and June 1985. Earlier remote measurements have generally shown concentrations in the 0.3–3.0 p.p.b.v. range, but coverage over a wide latitude range in the Southern Hemisphere has been limited to single trips1–5. The variations are consistent with southerly transport from sources located chiefly in the Northern Hemisphere, further modified by seasonal variations in the strength of the reaction of C2H6 with OH radicals. These global data can be combined with concurrent data for CH4 (refs 6, 7) and the laboratory reaction rates8 of each with OH to provide an estimate of 3 months as the average atmospheric lifetime for C2H6 and 13±3 Mtons for its annual atmospheric release.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, California 92717, USA

    • Donald R. Blake
    •  & F. Sherwood Rowland

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https://doi.org/10.1038/321231a0

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