Measurements of particulate methanesulfonic acid above the remote Arctic Ocean using a high resolution aerosol mass spectrometer

Yangmei Zhang, Junying Sun, Xiaojing Shen, Vipul Lal Chandani, Mao Du, Congbo Song, Yuqing Dai, Guoyuan Hu, Mingxi Yang, Gavin H. Tilstone, Tom Jordan, Giorgio Dall'Olmo, Quan Liu, Eiko Nemitz, Anna Callaghan, James Brean, Roberto Sommariva, David Beddows, Ben Langford, William BlossWilliam Acton, Zongbo Shi

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Methanesulfonic acid (MSA) is an important product from the oxidation of dimethyl sulfide (DMS), and thus is often used as a tracer for marine biogenic sources and secondary organic aerosol. MSA also contributes to aerosol mass and potentially to the formation of cloud condensation nuclei and new particles. However, measurements of MSA at high temporal resolution in the remote Arctic are scarce, which limits our understanding of its formation, climate change impact and regional transport. Here, we applied a validated quantification method to determine the mass concentration of MSA and non-sea salt sulfate (nss-SO4) in PM2.5 in the marine boundary layer, using a high resolution time-of-flight aerosol mass spectrometer (HR-ToF-AMS) during a research cruise to the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean, between 55 °N and 68 °N (26th May to June 23, 2022). With this method, the concentrations of MSA in the remote Arctic marine boundary layer were determined for the first time. Results show that the average MSA concentration was 0.025 ± 0.03 μg m−3, ranging from <0.01 to 0.32 μg m−3. The lowest MSA level was found towards the northern leg of the cruise (near Sisimut (67 °N)) with air masses from sea ice over the northern polar region, and the highest MSA concentrations were observed over the Atlantic open ocean. The diurnal cycles of gas MSA, particulate MSA and nss-SO4 peaked in the afternoon, about one hour later than that of peak of solar radiation, which suggests that photochemical process is an important mechanism for the conversion of DMS into MSA above the remote ocean. The mass ratio of MSA to nss-SO4 (MSA/nss-SO4) presents a temperature dependence, which indicates that the addition branching pathway favors MSA formation, while thermal decay of intermediate radicals could be a possible pathway for sulfate formation. Finally, we found that the MSA/nss-SO4 ratio is around 0.22-0.25 in the remote northern marine atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120538
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2024


  • HR-ToF-AMS
  • Marine aerosol
  • MSA
  • Oxidation path
  • Reference MSA/nss-SO value


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