U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2017, 51, pp. 11761−11770, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03517.


U.S. government work.


We report enhancements of glyoxal and methylglyoxal relative to carbon monoxide and formaldehyde in agricultural biomass burning plumes intercepted by the NOAA WP-3D aircraft during the 2013 Southeast Nexus and 2015 Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus campaigns. Glyoxal and methylglyoxal were measured using broadband cavity enhanced spectroscopy, which for glyoxal provides a highly selective and sensitive measurement. While enhancement ratios of other species such as methane and formaldehyde were consistent with previous measurements, glyoxal enhancements relative to carbon monoxide averaged 0.0016 ± 0.0009, a factor of 4 lower than values used in global models. Glyoxal enhancements relative to formaldehyde were 30 times lower than previously reported, averaging 0.038 ± 0.02. Several glyoxal loss processes such as photolysis, reactions with hydroxyl radicals, and aerosol uptake were found to be insufficient to explain the lower measured values of glyoxal relative to other biomass burning trace gases, indicating that glyoxal emissions from agricultural biomass burning may be significantly overestimated. Methylglyoxal enhancements were three to six times higher than reported in other recent studies, but spectral interferences from other substituted dicarbyonyls introduce an estimated correction factor of 2 and at least a 25% uncertainty, such that accurate measurements of the enhancements are difficult.