This review article compiles the characteristics of the gas chlorine nitrate and discusses its role in atmospheric chemistry. Chlorine nitrate is a reservoir of both stratospheric chlorine and nitrogen. It is formed by a termolecular reaction of ClO and NO2. Sink processes include gas-phase chemistry, photo-dissociation, and heterogeneous chemistry on aerosols. The latter sink is particularly important in the context of polar spring stratospheric chlorine activation. ClONO2 has vibrational–rotational bands in the infrared, notably at 779, 809, 1293, and 1735cm−1, which are used for remote sensing of ClONO2 in the atmosphere. Mid-infrared emission and absorption spectroscopy have long been the only concepts for atmospheric ClONO2 measurements. More recently, fluorescence and mass spectroscopic in situ techniques have been developed. Global ClONO2 distributions have a maximum at polar winter latitudes at about 20–30km altitude, where mixing ratios can exceed 2ppbv. The annual cycle is most pronounced in the polar stratosphere, where ClONO2 concentrations are an indicator of chlorine activation and de-activation.