Articles | Volume 16, issue 7
Research article
05 Apr 2016
Research article |  | 05 Apr 2016

Detecting moisture transport pathways to the subtropical North Atlantic free troposphere using paired H2O-δD in situ measurements

Yenny González, Matthias Schneider, Christoph Dyroff, Sergio Rodríguez, Emanuel Christner, Omaira Elena García, Emilio Cuevas, Juan Jose Bustos, Ramon Ramos, Carmen Guirado-Fuentes, Sabine Barthlott, Andreas Wiegele, and Eliezer Sepúlveda

Abstract. We present two years of in situ measurements of water vapour (H2O) and its isotopologue ratio (δD, the standardized ratio between H216O and HD16O), made at two remote mountain sites on Tenerife in the subtropical North Atlantic. We show that the data – if measured during night-time – are well representative for the lower/middle free troposphere. We use the measured H2O-δD pairs, together with dust measurements and back trajectory modelling for analysing the moisture pathways to this region. We can identify four principally different transport pathways. The air mass transport from high altitudes and high latitudes shows two different scenarios. The first scenario brings dry air masses to the stations, as the result of condensation events occurring at low temperatures. The second scenario brings humid air masses to the stations, due to cross-isentropic mixing with lower-level and more humid air during transport since last condensation (LC). The third pathway is transportation from lower latitudes and lower altitudes, whereby we can identify rain re-evaporation as an occasional source of moisture. The fourth pathway is linked to the African continent, where during summer, dry convection processes over the Sahara very effectively inject humidity from the boundary layer to higher altitudes. This so-called Saharan Air Layer (SAL) is then advected westward over the Atlantic and contributes to moisten the free troposphere. We demonstrate that the different pathways leave distinct fingerprints on the measured H2O-δD pairs.

Short summary
Measurements of water vapour isotopologues, dust, and a back trajectory model were used to identify moisture pathways in the subtropical North Atlantic. Dry air masses, from condensation at low temperatures, are transported from high altitudes and latitudes. The humid sources are related to the mixture, with lower and more humid air during transport. Rain re-evaporation was an occasional source of moisture. In summer, an important humidity source is the strong dry convection over the Sahara.
Final-revised paper