27 Sep 2022
27 Sep 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Observed changes in stratospheric circulation: Decreasing lifetime of N2O, 2005–2021

Michael J. Prather1, Lucien Froidevaux2, and Nathaniel J. Livesey2 Michael J. Prather et al.
  • 1Earth System Science Department, University of California Irvine; Irvine, CA 92697-3100, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; Pasadena, CA 91011, USA

Abstract. Using Aura Microwave Limb Sounder satellite observations of stratospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone, and temperature from 2005 through 2021, we calculate the atmospheric lifetime of N2O to be decreasing. Because N2O abundances in the middle tropical stratosphere, where it is photochemically destroyed, increased at a faster rate than the bulk N2O in the lower atmosphere, the lifetime is becoming shorter. The cause appears to be a more vigorous stratospheric circulation, which models predict to result from climate change. If this climate-driven circulation trend continues to 2100, then anthropogenic N2O emissions will be removed 20 % faster than current projections, and their impact on global warming and ozone depletion will be proportionately lessened. This finding is an example of a distinct negative, but relatively minor, climate-chemistry feedback.

Michael J. Prather et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-650', Anonymous Referee #1, 24 Nov 2022 reply

Michael J. Prather et al.

Michael J. Prather et al.


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Short summary
From the satellite data for nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone, and temperature, we calculate the monthly loss of N2O, and find it is increasing faster than expected, resulting in a shorter lifetime, which reduces the impact of anthropogenic emissions. The cause of the increasing loss is enhanced vertical lofting of high-N2O air in the tropical middle stratosphere, where it is destroyed photochemically. This presents a new, distinct, but minor, negative climate-chemistry feedback.