Quantifying wet scavenging processes in aircraft observations of nitric acid and cloud condensation nuclei

T. J. Garrett, L. Avey, P. I. Palmer, A. Stohl, J. A. Neuman, C. A. Brock, T. B. Ryerson, J. S. Holloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wet scavenging is an important sink term for many atmospheric constituents. However, production of precipitation in clouds is poorly understood, and pollutant removal through wet scavenging is difficult to separate from removal through dry scavenging, atmospheric mixing, or chemical transformations. Here we use airborne data from the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation project to show that measured ratios of soluble and insoluble trace gases provide a useful indicator for quantifying wet scavenging. Specifically, nitric acid (HNO3), produced as a by-product of combustion, is highly soluble and removed efficiently from clouds by rain. Regional carbon monoxide (CO), which is also an indicator of anthropogenic activity, is insoluble and has a lifetime against oxidation of about a month. We find that relative concentrations of HNO3 to regional CO observed in clear air are negatively correlated with precipitation production rates in nearby cloudy air (r2 = 0.85). Also, we show that relative concentrations of HNO3 and CO can be used to quantify cloud condensation nucleus (CCN) scavenging by precipitating clouds. This is because CCN and HNO3 molecules are both fully soluble in cloud water and hence can be treated as analogous species insofar as wet scavenging is concerned. While approximate, the practical advantage of this approach to scavenging studies is that it requires only measurement in clear air and no a priori knowledge of the cloud or aerosol properties involved.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberD23S51
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberD23
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantifying wet scavenging processes in aircraft observations of nitric acid and cloud condensation nuclei'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this