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Stratospheric Transit Time Distributions Derived from Satellite Water Vapor Measurements
  • William J. Randel,
  • Aurélien Podglajen,
  • Fei Wu
William J. Randel
National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Aurélien Podglajen
Laboratoire de météorologie dynamique, Ecole Polytechnique
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Fei Wu
National Center for Atmospheric Research
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Stratospheric transit time distributions (age-of-air spectra) are estimated using satellite water vapor (H2O) measurements from the Microwave Limb Sounder over 2004-2021 assuming stationary transport. Latitude-altitude dependent spectra are derived from correlations of interannual H2O anomalies with respect to the tropical tropopause source region, fitted with an inverse Gaussian distribution function. The reconstructions accurately capture interannual H2O variability in the ‘tropical pipe’ and global lower stratosphere, regions of relatively fast transport (~1-2 years) in the Brewer-Dobson circulation. The calculations provide novel observational estimates of the corresponding ‘short transit-time’ part of the age spectrum in these regions, including the mode. However, the H2O results do not constrain the longer transit-time ‘tail’ of the age spectra, and the mean age of air and spectral widths are systematically underestimated compared to other data. We compare observational results with parallel calculations applied to the WACCM chemistry-climate model and the CLaMS chemistry-transport model, and additionally evaluate the method in CLaMS by comparing with spectra from idealized pulse tracers. Because the age spectra accurately capture H2O interannual variations originating from the tropical tropopause, they can be used to identify ‘other’ sources of variability in the lower stratosphere, and we use these calculations to quantify H2O anomalies in the Southern Hemisphere linked to the Australian New Years fires in early 2020 and the Hunga volcanic eruption in 2022.
16 May 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
21 May 2024Published in ESS Open Archive