Reassessment of the role of penguin emissions

The time has come, the walrus said, for a reassessment of the role of penguin emissions:

A reassessment of the budget of formic and acetic acids in the boundary layer at Dumont d’Urville (coastal Antarctica): The role of penguin emissions on the budget of several oxygenated volatile organic compounds,” Michel Legrand [pictured below], Valérie Gros, Susanne Preunkert, Roland Sarda-Estève, Anne-Mathilde Thierry, Guillaume Pépy, and B. Jourdain, Journal of Geophysical Research, J. Geophys. Res., vol. 117, 2012, D6. The authors, at Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement, Grenoble, France, at Unité Mixte, Gif sur Yvette, France, and at Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Strasbourg, France, report:

“Acetic acid levels in December 2010 were four times higher than those observed over summers back to 1997. These unusually high levels were accompanied by unusually high levels of ammonia, and by an enrichment of oxalate in aerosols. These observations suggest that the guano decomposition in the large penguin colonies present at the site was particularly strong under weather conditions encountered in spring 2010…. Present at levels as high as 500 pptv, acetaldehyde may represent the major precursor of acetic acid, alkene-ozone reactions remaining insignificant sources. Far less influenced by penguin emissions, the budget of formic acid remains not fully understood even if alkene-ozone reactions contribute significantly.”

(Thanks to investigator Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: The Ig Nobel Prize-winning report “Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh — Calculations on Avian Defaecation.”