National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1997

Estimation of the air/sea exchange of ammonia for the North Atlantic Basin

Quinn, P.K., K.J. Barrett, F.J. Dentener, F. Lipschultz, and K.D. Six

Biogeochemistry, 35(1), 275–304, doi: 10.1007/BF02179831 (1996)

As gas phase atmospheric ammonia reacts with acidic aerosol particles it affects the chemical, physical, and optical properties of the particles. A knowledge of the source strengths of NH3 is useful in determining the effect of NH3 on aerosol properties on a regional basis. Here, an attempt is made to determine the direction and magnitude of the air/sea flux of ammonia for the North Atlantic Basin from both measured and modeled seawater and atmospheric ammonia concentrations. Previously reported measured seawater concentrations range from less than 30 to 4600 nM with the highest concentrations reported for the Caribbean Sea, the North Sea, and the Belgium coast. Measured atmospheric ammonia concentrations range from 2 to 500 nmol m−3 with the largest values occurring over the Sargasso Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and the North Sea. For comparison to the measurements, seawater ammonia concentrations were calculated by the Hamburg Model of the Ocean Carbon Cycle (HAMOCC3). HAMOCC3 open ocean values agree well with the limited number of reported measured concentrations. Calculated coastal values are lower than those measured, however, due to the coarse resolution of the model. Atmospheric ammonia concentrations were calculated by the Acid Deposition Model of the Meteorological Synthesizing Center (MSC-W) and by the global 3-dimensional model Moguntia. The two models predict similar annually averaged values but are about an order of magnitude lower than the measured concentrations. Over the North Sea and the NE Atlantic, the direction and magnitude of the air/sea ammonia flux calculated from MSC-W and Moguntia agree within the uncertainty of the calculations. Flux estimates derived from measured data are larger in both the positive and negative direction than the model derived values. The discrepancies between the measured and modeled concentrations and fluxes may be a result of sampling artifacts, inadequate chemistry and transport schemes in the models, or the difficult in comparing point measurements to time-averaged model values. Sensitivity tests were performed which indicate that, over the range of values expected for the North Atlantic, the accuracy of the calculated flux depends strongly on seawater and atmospheric ammonia concentrations. Clearly, simultaneous and accurate measurements of seawater and atmospheric ammonia concentrations are needed to reduce the uncertainty of the flux calculations, validate the model results, and characterize the role of oceanic ammonia emissions in aerosol processing and nitrogen cycling for the North Atlantic.

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