Organic nitrogen in aerosols and precipitation at Barbados and Miami: Implications regarding sources, transport and deposition to the western subtropical North Atlantic

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Abstract

[1] The deposition of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) species is believed to have a significant impact on the oligotrophic North Atlantic, but the magnitude of ecological effects remains uncertain because the deposition of water soluble organic N (WSON) is poorly quantified. Here we present measurements of water soluble inorganic N (WSIN) and WSON in aerosol and rain at two subtropical North Atlantic time series sites: Barbados and Miami. WSON total deposition rates ranged from 17.9 mmol m−2 yr−1 to 49.6 mmol m−2 yr−1, contributing on average only 6–14% of total N deposition, less than half the poorly constrained global average which is typically cited as 30%. On an event basis, biomass burning and dust events yielded the largest concentrations of WSON. However, biomass burning was relatively infrequent and highly variable in composition, and much of the organic N associated with dust appeared to be externally adsorbed from pollution sources. Conversely, in Miami pollution made relatively small contributions of WSON on an event basis, but impacts were relatively frequent, making pollution one of the largest sources of WSON during the year. The largest contributor to WSON was volatile basic organic N (VBON) species, which were present at concentrations 1–2 times higher than particulate WSON. Despite VBON inputs, samples associated with pollution-source trajectories yielded much more inorganic N than WSON. Consequently, we would expect that in the future as anthropogenic N emissions increase, inorganic nitrogen will remain the dominant form of N that is deposited to the western North Atlantic.

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