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BIOS study to look at impact of bromine, chlorine and iodine on atmosphere

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A long path differential optical absorption spectrometer, run by Jochen Stutz, professor of atmospheric sciences and ocean sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles, as part of the Bleach project. (Photograph supplied)

A team of international researchers has turned its focus on the island’s air and water as part of a study of trace elemental gases in the atmosphere.

According to BIOS’s Currents newsletter, the project, called the Bermuda boundary layer experiment on the atmospheric chemistry of halogens (Bleach), aims to study the impacts of bromine, chlorine and iodine on the atmosphere.

While the gases are an important factor in environmental chemistry, little is known about what processes control their levels.

As part of the project, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Washington, the University of York and the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will collect environmental samples from the Tudor Hill Marine Atmospheric Observatory in Southampton and the Chubb Heads beacon to the west of the island.

Andrew Peters, BIOS associate scientist and principal investigator of the THMAO, said: “The Bleach project is one of the largest research collaborations that has worked at the Tudor Hill facility, and it has further demonstrated the value of the facility for conducting marine atmospheric research in the mid-ocean environment.

“It also shows the value of scientific collaborations such as this, bringing teams of experts together with their instrumentation to make use of this unique opportunity.

“The Bleach team has been a pleasure to work with and I look forward to building on this experience and welcoming more groups to Bermuda in the future.”

Halogens in the environment made headlines in the 1980s because of their impact on ozone.

Researchers discovered that increases in the halogen chlorine coincided with the depletion of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, which blocks UV radiation.

The discovery sparked a worldwide ban on ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons – a man-made source of halogens.

While ozone plays a role in protecting the environment from solar rays in the upper atmosphere, it is considered a harmful pollutant in the lower atmosphere, known as the troposphere, where natural halogens are found.

The newsletter said: “The chemical reactions that generate reactive halogens in the troposphere are not well understood, prompting the deployment of the Bleach field campaign to better understand their sources and sinks.”

The research project, supported by funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council and the US National Science Foundation, involves measuring the amount of halogens, ozone and environmental conditions in the environment over a series of five-week research periods.

The team will also sample the inshore seawater to better assess the cycling of some of these chemicals between the ocean and the atmosphere.

Mat Evans, professor of atmospheric chemistry modelling at the University of York, said: “It’s been fantastic to be able to work with our American colleagues and the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences on this project.

“The joint NSF and NERC funding has really made this possible. We’ve all been able to do so much more than we could have done alone.”

John Halfacre, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of York, with one of the instruments installed in the new sampling tower at the Tudor Hill Marine Atmospheric Observatory. (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 31, 2022 at 7:51 am (Updated August 31, 2022 at 7:51 am)

BIOS study to look at impact of bromine, chlorine and iodine on atmosphere

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