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On the decay of stratospheric pollutants: Diagnosing the longest-lived eigenmode

  • Author(s): Ehhalt, D. H
  • Rohrer, F.
  • Schauffler, S.
  • Prather, M. J.
  • et al.
Abstract

On the basis of a one-dimensional (1-D) analysis the decay time of the lowest eigenmode, τ1, for the stratospheric distribution of a conserved tracer is derived from measured vertical profiles of the mean age of stratospheric air. Two case studies (a and b) give τ1,a = 3.8 ± 0.8 years and τ1,b = 5.3 ± 1.1 years. These semiobservational times are considerably longer than most of the τ1 derived from 2-D and 3-D models. At the same time they are shorter than the observational eigentime, τ1,HTO = 7.7 ± 2 years, determined from the decay of the tritium (T) content in stratospheric water vapor, following the thermonuclear test explosions in the early 1960s. Part of the differences among the observational eigentimes can be explained by the assumptions that had to be made to extract τ1,HTO from the trend in the T content of stratospheric water vapor (namely, the cosmogenic background of tritiated water vapor and the trend in stratospheric water vapor). This leads to a revised value τ1,HTO = 6.3 ± 0.9 years for the time period 1975–1983. Allowing for a possible temporal trend in Γ and hence τ1, the value for the current τ1 decreases to 5.3 ± 1 years.

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