Climatic Change

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 453–479

The Oxidation of Organic Compounds in the Troposphere and their Global Warming Potentials


  • W. J. Collins
    • Climate Research DivisionMeteorological Office
  • R. G. Derwent
    • Climate Research DivisionMeteorological Office
  • C. E. Johnson
    • Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and ResearchMeteorological Office
  • D. S. Stevenson
    • Department of MeteorologyUniversity of Edinburgh

DOI: 10.1023/A:1014221225434

Cite this article as:
Collins, W.J., Derwent, R.G., Johnson, C.E. et al. Climatic Change (2002) 52: 453. doi:10.1023/A:1014221225434


Oxidation by hydroxyl radicals is the main removal process for organic compounds in the troposphere. This oxidation acts as a source of ozone and as a removal process for hydroxyl and peroxy radicals, thereby reducing the efficiency of methane oxidation and promoting the build-up of methane. Emissions of organic compounds may therefore lead to the build-up of two important radiatively-active trace gases: methane and ozone. Emission pulses of 10 organic compounds were followed in a global 3-D Lagrangian chemistry-transport model to quantify their indirect greenhouse gas impacts through changes induced in the tropospheric distributions of methane and ozone. The main factors influencing the global warming potentials of the 10 organic compounds were found to be their spatial emission patterns, chemical reactivity and transport, molecular complexity and oxidation products formed. The indirect radiative forcing impacts of organic compounds may be large enough that ozone precursors should be considered in the basket of trace gases through which policy-makers aim to combat global climate change.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002