Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 16837-16860, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Residual circulation trajectories and transit times into the extratropical lowermost stratosphere
T. Birner1 and H. Bönisch2
1Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
2Institute for Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Abstract. Transport into the extratropical lowermost stratosphere (LMS) can be divided into a slow part (time-scale of several months to years) associated with the global-scale stratospheric residual circulation and a fast part (time-scale of days to a few months) associated with (mostly quasi-horizontal) mixing (i.e. two-way irreversible transport, including stratosphere-troposphere exchange). The stratospheric residual circulation can be considered to consist of two branches: a deep branch more strongly associated with planetary waves breaking in the middle to upper stratosphere, and a shallow branch more strongly associated with synoptic-scale waves breaking in the subtropical lower stratosphere. In this study the contribution due to the stratospheric residual circulation alone to transport into the LMS is quantified using residual circulation trajectories, i.e. trajectories driven by the (time-dependent) residual mean meridional and vertical velocities. This contribution represents the advective part of the overall transport into the LMS and can be viewed as providing a background onto which the effect of mixing has to be added. Residual mean velocities are obtained from a comprehensive chemistry-climate model as well as from reanalysis data. Transit times of air traveling from the tropical tropopause to the LMS along the residual circulation streamfunction are evaluated and compared to recent mean age of air estimates. A clear time-scale separation with much smaller transit times into the mid-latitudinal LMS than into polar LMS is found that is indicative of a clear separation of the shallow from the deep branch of the residual circulation. This separation between the shallow and the deep circulation branch is further manifested in a clear distinction in the aspect ratio of the vertical to meridional extent of the trajectories as well as the integrated mass flux along the residual circulation trajectories. The residual transit time distribution reproduces qualitatively the observed seasonal cycle of youngest air in the extratropical LMS in fall and oldest air in spring.

Citation: Birner, T. and Bönisch, H.: Residual circulation trajectories and transit times into the extratropical lowermost stratosphere, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 16837-16860, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-16837-2010, 2010.
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