Brevia

Diffusive Separation of the Lower Atmosphere

Science  10 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5766, pp. 1429
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121312

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Abstract

The separation of atmospheric constituents by gravity has been proposed theoretically for almost two centuries. However, turbulent mixing has prevented the detection of this phenomenon in the lower atmosphere. By using precise measurements of the Ar/N2 ratio of air samples taken under strong nocturnal inversions, we have detected such separation in near-surface layers. The effect is shown to be consistent with combined influence of thermal and gravimetric separation, with the thermal contribution being more important.

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