A combination of observational and model analyses is used to provide more insights into the natural variability components of stratospheric and surface N2O. The stratospheric loss of N2O (see Figure) can be constrained through the use of Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) observations of N2O, ozone and temperature. The stratosphere, in turn, has some influence on tropospheric distributions and variability.
However, model results disagree in the southern hemisphere annual cycle.
Technical Description of Figure:
Absolute loss of N2O (TgN/yr; left axis) and global mean loss frequency (%/yr, right axis) based on Aura MLS observations (2005-2018, black), and obtained from model results (GMI CTM, 1990-2018, green; LMDz5 CTM, 1995-2016, blue; UCI CTM, 1990-2017, red).
Scientific significance, societal relevance, and relationships to future missions:
Gases such as N2O and CFC-11 can have a non-negligible impact on the ozone layer and global surface warming, and hence, on society and health. Studies seeking to derive surface emissions must be able to model and remove the stratospheric variability from surface fluctuations; this work provides better constraints on losses and variability for these species at the surface. Future missions would need to have similar quality stratospheric data as Aura MLS (and with good enough sampling) in order to pursue improvements to such detailed analyses of integrated N2O loss as a function of latitude and time, or regarding other long-lived tracers with stratospheric loss terms that can be estimated well enough. No such mission is currently being planned by NASA.
Aura MLS profiles on pressure surfaces were provided as Level 3 monthly zonal means by the Aura MLS team; both MLS Level 2 and Level 3 data files can be obtained from https://earthdata.nasa.gov/eosdis/daacs/gesdisc, the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC). Ground-based datasets from NOAA (not shown here) are also used in these analyses and comparisons. The models used for the comparisons are Chemical Transport Models (CTMs), namely the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Global Modeling Initiative (GMI) CTM, the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Zoom, Version 5 (LMDz5) CTM, and the University of California Irvine (UCI) CTM, each driven by different meteorological fields.
References: Ruiz, D., M. J. Prather, S. E. Strahan, R. L. Thompson, L. Froidevaux, and S. D. Steenrod, How Atmospheric Chemistry and Transport Drive Surface Variability of N2O and CFC-11, J. Geophys. Res., 2021, doi: 10.1029/2020JD033979.