Nitrate in the atmospheric boundary layer of the tropical South Pacific: Implications regarding sources and transport

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Weekly bulk aerosol samples collected at Funafuti, Tuvalu (8°30′S, 179°12′E), American Samoa (14°15′S, 170°35′W), and Rarotonga (21°15′S, 159°45′W), from 1983 through most of 1987 have been analyzed for nitrate and other constituents. The mean nitrate concentration is about 0.11 μg m-3 at each of these stations: 0.107±0.011 μg m-3 at Funafuti; 0.116±0.008 at American Samoa; and 0.117±0.010 at Rarotonga. Previous measurements of mineral aerosol and trace metal concentrations at American Samoa are among the lowest ever recorded for the near-surface troposphere and indicate that this region is minimally affected by transport of soil material and pollutants from the continents. Consequently, the nitrate concentration of 0.11 μg m-3 can be regarded as the natural level for the remote marine boundary layer of the tropical South Pacific Ocean. In contrast, over the tropical North Pacific which is significantly impacted by the transport of material from Asia and North America, the mean nitrate concentrations are about three times higher, 0.29 and 0.36 μg m-3 at Midway and Oahu, respectively. The major sources of the nitrate over the tropical South Pacific are still very uncertain. A very significant correlation between the nitrate concentrations at American Samoa and the concentrations of 210Pb suggests that transport from continental sources might be important. This continental source could be lightning, which occurs most frequently over the tropical continents. A near-zero correlation with 7Be indicates that the stratosphere and upper troposphere are probably not the major sources. A significant biogenic source would be consistent with the higher mean nitrate concentrations, 0.16 to 0.17 μg m-3, found over the equatorial Pacific at Fanning Island (3°55′N, 159°20′W) and Nauru (0°32′S, 166°57′E). The lack of correlation between nitrate and nss sulfate at American Samoa does not necessarily preclude an important role for marine biogenic sources. © 1989 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry