Global importance of hydroxymethanesulfonate in ambient particulate matter: Implications for air quality


Moch, J.M., L.J. E. Dovrou, F.N. Mickley, Z. Keutsch, Y. Liu, T.L. Wang, M. Dombek, S.H. Kuwata, L. Budisulistiorini, and S. D Yang. 8/26/2020. “Global importance of hydroxymethanesulfonate in ambient particulate matter: Implications for air quality.” JGR: Atmospheres, 125, 18. Publisher's Version


Sulfur compounds are an important constituent of particulate matter, with impacts on climate and public health. While most sulfur observed in particulate matter has been assumed to be sulfate, laboratory experiments reveal that hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS), an adduct formed by aqueous phase chemical reaction of dissolved HCHO and SO2, may be easily misinterpreted in measurements as sulfate. Here we present observational and modeling evidence for a ubiquitous global presence of HMS. We find that filter samples collected in Shijiazhuang, China, and examined with ion chromatography within 9 days show as much as 7.6 μg m−3 of HMS, while samples from Singapore examined 9–18 months after collection reveal ~0.6 μg m−3 of HMS. The Shijiazhuang samples show only minor traces of HMS 4 months later, suggesting that HMS had decomposed over time during sample storage. In contrast, the Singapore samples do not clearly show a decline in HMS concentration over 2 months of monitoring. Measurements from over 150 sites, primarily derived from the IMPROVE network across the United States, suggest the ubiquitous presence of HMS in at least trace amounts as much as 60 days after collection. The degree of possible HMS decomposition in the IMPROVE observations is unknown. Using the GEOS‐Chem chemical transport model, we estimate that HMS may account for 10% of global particulate sulfur in continental surface air and over 25% in many polluted regions. Our results suggest that reducing emissions of HCHO and other volatile organic compounds may have a co‐benefit of decreasing particulate sulfur.
Last updated on 03/06/2021