National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Influence of transport and ocean ice extent on biogenic aerosol sulfur in the Arctic atmosphere

Sharma, S., E. Chan, M. Ishizawa, D. Toom-Sauntry, S.L. Gong, S.M. Li, D.W. Tarasick, W.R. Leaitch, A. Norman, P.K. Quinn, T.S. Bates, M. Levasseur, L.A. Barrie, and W. Maenhaut

J. Geophys. Res., 117(D12), D12209, doi: 10.1029/2011JD017074 (2012)

The recent decline in sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean could affect the regional radiative forcing via changes in sea ice–atmosphere exchange of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and biogenic aerosols formed from its atmospheric oxidation, such as methanesulfonic acid (MSA). This study examines relationships between changes in total sea ice extent north of 70°N and atmospheric MSA measurement at Alert, Nunavut, during 1980–2009; at Barrow, Alaska, during 1997–2008; and at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, for 1991–2004. During the 1980–1989 and 1990–1997 periods, summer (July–August) and June MSA concentrations at Alert decreased. In general, MSA concentrations increased at all locations since 2000 with respect to 1990 values, specifically during June and summer at Alert and in summer at Barrow and Ny-Ålesund. Our results show variability in MSA at all sites is related to changes in the source strengths of DMS, possibly linked to changes in sea ice extent as well as to changes in atmospheric transport patterns. Since 2000, a late spring increase in atmospheric MSA at the three sites coincides with the northward migration of the marginal ice edge zone where high DMS emissions from ocean to atmosphere have previously been reported. Significant negative correlations are found between sea ice extent and MSA concentrations at the three sites during the spring and June. These results suggest that a decrease in seasonal ice cover influencing other mechanisms of DMS production could lead to higher atmospheric MSA concentrations.

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