Articles | Volume 6, issue 8
20 Jun 2006
20 Jun 2006

Modelling the budget of middle atmospheric water vapour isotopes

A. Zahn, P. Franz, C. Bechtel, J.-U. Grooß, and T. Röckmann

Abstract. A one-dimensional chemistry model is applied to study the stable hydrogen (D) and stable oxygen isotope (17O, 18O) composition of water vapour in stratosphere and mesosphere. In the troposphere, this isotope composition is determined by "physical'' fractionation effects, that are phase changes (e.g. during cloud formation), diffusion processes (e.g. during evaporation from the ocean), and mixing of air masses. Due to these processes water vapour entering the stratosphere first shows isotope depletions in D/H relative to ocean water, which are ~5 times of those in 18O/16O, and secondly is mass-dependently fractionated (MDF), i.e. changes in the isotope ratio 17O/16O are ~0.52 times of those of 18O/16O. In contrast, in the stratosphere and mesosphere "chemical'' fractionation mechanisms, that are the production of HO due to the oxidation of methane, re-cycling of H2O via the HOx family, and isotope exchange reactions considerably enhance the isotope ratios in the water vapour imported from the troposphere. The model reasonably predicts overall enhancements of the stable isotope ratios in H2O by up to ~25% for D/H, ~8.5% for 17O/16O, and ~14% for 18O/16O in the mesosphere relative to the tropopause values. The 17O/16O and 18O/16O ratios in H2O are shown to be a measure of the relative fractions of HOx that receive the O atom either from the reservoirs O2 or O3. Throughout the middle atmosphere, MDF O2 is the major donator of oxygen atoms incorporated in OH and HO2 and thus in H2O. In the stratosphere the known mass-independent fractionation (MIF) signal in O3 is in a first step transferred to the NOx family and only in a second step to HOx and H2O. In contrast to CO2, O(1D) only plays a minor role in this MIF transfer. The major uncertainty in our calculation arises from poorly quantified isotope exchange reaction rate coefficients and kinetic isotope fractionation factors.

Final-revised paper