Stratospheric Mean Ages and Transport Rates from Observations of Carbon Dioxide and Nitrous Oxide

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Science  22 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5291, pp. 1340-1343
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5291.1340


Measurements of stratospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations were analyzed to investigate stratospheric transport rates. Temporal variations in tropospheric CO2 were observed to propagate into the stratosphere, showing that tropospheric air enters the lower tropical stratosphere continuously, ascends, and is transported rapidly (in less than 1 month) to both hemispheres. The mean age A of stratospheric air determined from CO2 data is approximately 5 years in the mid-stratosphere. The mean age is mathematically equivalent to a conserved tracer analogous to exhaust from stratospheric aircraft. Comparison of values for A from models and observations indicates that current model simulations likely underestimate pollutant concentrations from proposed stratospheric aircraft by 25 to 100 percent.