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Isotopic Fractionation of Stratospheric Nitrous Oxide

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Science  05 Dec 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5344, pp. 1778-1780
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5344.1778

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Abstract

We propose an isotopic fractionation mechanism, based on photolytic destruction, to explain the 15N/14N and18O/16O fractionation of stratospheric nitrous oxide (N2O) and reconcile laboratory experiments with atmospheric observations. The theory predicts that (i) the isotopomers15N14N16O and14N15N16O have very different isotopic fractionations in the stratosphere, and (ii) laboratory photolysis experiments conducted at 205 nanometers should better simulate the observed isotopic fractionation of stratospheric N2O. Modeling results indicate that there is no compelling reason to invoke a significant chemical source of N2O in the middle atmosphere and that individual N2O isotopomers might be useful tracers of stratospheric air parcel motion.

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