Stable Isotope Enrichment in Stratospheric Nitrous Oxide

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Science  05 Dec 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5344, pp. 1776-1778
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5344.1776

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Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that also plays a role in the cycling of stratospheric ozone. Air samples from the lower stratosphere exhibit 15N/14N and18O/16O enrichment in nitrous oxide, which can be accounted for with a simple model describing an irreversible destruction process. The observed enrichments are quite large and incompatible with those determined for the main stratospheric nitrous oxide loss processes of photolysis and reaction with excited atomic oxygen. Thus, although no stratospheric source needs to be invoked, the data indicate that present understanding of stratospheric nitrous oxide chemistry is incomplete.

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