Articles | Volume 13, issue 20
Research article
 | Highlight paper
31 Oct 2013
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 31 Oct 2013

Filamentary structure in chemical tracer distributions near the subtropical jet following a wave breaking event

J. Ungermann, L. L. Pan, C. Kalicinsky, F. Olschewski, P. Knieling, J. Blank, K. Weigel, T. Guggenmoser, F. Stroh, L. Hoffmann, and M. Riese

Abstract. This paper presents a set of observations and analyses of trace gas cross sections in the extratropical upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UTLS). The spatially highly resolved (≈0.5 km vertically and 12.5 km horizontally) cross sections of ozone (O3), nitric acid (HNO3), and peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN), retrieved from the measurements of the CRISTA-NF infrared limb sounder flown on the Russian M55-Geophysica, revealed intricate layer structures in the region of the subtropical tropopause break. The chemical structure in this region shows an intertwined stratosphere and troposphere. The observed filaments in all discussed trace gases are of a spatial scale of less than 0.8 km vertically and about 200 km horizontally across the jet stream. Backward trajectory calculations confirm that the observed filaments are the result of a breaking Rossby wave in the preceding days. An analysis of the trace gas relationships between PAN and O3 identifies four distinct groups of air mass: polluted subtropical tropospheric air, clean tropical upper-tropospheric air, the lowermost stratospheric air, and air from the deep stratosphere. The tracer relationships further allow the identification of tropospheric, stratospheric, and the transitional air mass made of a mixture of UT and LS air. Mapping of these air mass types onto the geo-spatial location in the cross sections reveals a highly structured extratropical transition layer (ExTL). Finally, the ratio between the measured reactive nitrogen species (HNO3 + PAN + ClONO2) and O3 is analysed to estimate the influence of tropospheric pollution on the extratropical UTLS.

In combination, these diagnostics provide the first example of a multi-species two-dimensional picture of the inhomogeneous distribution of chemical species within the UTLS region. Since Rossby wave breaking occurs frequently in the region of the tropopause break, these observed fine-scale filaments are likely ubiquitous in the region. The implications of the layered structure for chemistry and radiation need to be examined, and the representation of this structure in chemistry-climate models is discussed.

Final-revised paper