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Natural emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen from North America

  • Author(s): Guenther, A
  • Geron, C
  • Pierce, T
  • Lamb, B
  • Harley, P
  • Fall, R
  • et al.
Abstract

The magnitudes, distributions, controlling processes and uncertainties associated with North American natural emissions of oxidant precursors are reviewed. Natural emissions are responsible for a major portion of the compounds, including non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitric oxide (NO), that determine tropospheric oxidant concentrations. Natural sources include soil microbes, vegetation, biomass burning, and lightning. These sources are strongly influenced by human activities that have led to significant changes in the magnitude and distribution of natural emissions in the past two centuries. The total NMVOC flux of about 84 × 1012 g of carbon (Tg C) is comprised primarily of isoprene (35%), 19 other terpenoid compounds (25%) and 17 non-terpenoid compounds (40%). Vegetation is predicted to contribute about 98% of the total annual natural NMVOC emission. The estimated annual natural NO emission of 2.1 × 1012 g of nitrogen (Tg N) from North America is primarily due to soils and lightning, while the estimated 10 Tg C of CO arises from biomass burning and vegetation. Field measurements of ambient concentrations and above canopy fluxes have validated emission estimates for a few compounds from some important landscapes. The uncertainty associated with natural emission estimates ranges from less than 50% for midday summer isoprene emission from some locations to about a factor of 10 for some compounds and landscapes.

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