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Top Curr Chem. 2014;339:145-99. doi: 10.1007/128_2013_461.

Bio-organic materials in the atmosphere and snow: measurement and characterization.

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  • 1Departments of Chemistry, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, 801 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, QC, Canada,


Bio-organic chemicals are ubiquitous in the Earth's atmosphere and at air-snow interfaces, as well as in aerosols and in clouds. It has been known for centuries that airborne biological matter plays various roles in the transmission of disease in humans and in ecosystems. The implication of chemical compounds of biological origins in cloud condensation and in ice nucleation processes has also been studied during the last few decades, and implications have been suggested in the reduction of visibility, in the influence on oxidative potential of the atmosphere and transformation of compounds in the atmosphere, in the formation of haze, change of snow-ice albedo, in agricultural processes, and bio-hazards and bio-terrorism. In this review we critically examine existing observation data on bio-organic compounds in the atmosphere and in snow. We also review both conventional and cutting-edge analytical techniques and methods for measurement and characterisation of bio-organic compounds and specifically for microbial communities, in the atmosphere and snow. We also explore the link between biological compounds and nucleation processes. Due to increased interest in decreasing emissions of carbon-containing compounds, we also briefly review (in an Appendix) methods and techniques that are currently deployed for bio-organic remediation.

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