Do emissions from ships have a significant impact on concentrations of nitrogen oxides in the marine boundary layer?

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The potential impact of ship emissions on concentrations of nitrogen oxides and reactive nitrogen compounds in the marine boundary layer is assessed using a global chemical transport model. The model predicts significant enhancements of these compounds over large regions, especially over the northern midlatitude oceans. This result is consistent with a recently published study, though the impacts predicted here are more widespread and the peak enhancements are not as large. However, comparisons of model results with recent measurements over the central North Atlantic Ocean do not provide support for these model predictions. While one cannot completely overlook the possibility that emissions of nitrogen oxides from ships may be overestimated, our analysis suggests that there may be a gap in our understanding of the chemical evolution of ship plumes as they mix into the background atmosphere in the marine boundary layer. On a related note, it is also possible that the overestimate of the impacts of ships on nitrogen oxides in the marine boundary layer by global models is due to the lack of parameterized representations of plume dynamics and chemistry in these models.

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Geophysical Research Letters