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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2018-990
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Oct 2018

Research article | 05 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Retrieving the age of air spectrum from tracers: principle and method

Aurélien Podglajen and Felix Ploeger Aurélien Podglajen and Felix Ploeger
  • Institute for Energy and Climate Research: Stratosphere (IEK-7), Forschungszentrum Jülich, Jülich, Germany

Abstract. Surface-emitted tracers with different dependencies on transit time (e.g., due to chemical loss or time-dependent boundary conditions) carry independent pieces of information on the age of air spectrum (the distribution of transit times from the surface). This paper investigates how and to what extent knowledge of tracer concentrations can be used to retrieve the age spectrum. Since the tracers considered depend linearly on the transit time distribution, the question posed can be formulated as a linear inverse problem of small dimension. An inversion methodology is introduced, which does not require any assumptions regarding the shape of the spectrum. The performance of the approach is first evaluated on a constructed set of artificial radioactive tracers derived from idealized spectra. Hereafter, the inversion method is applied to model output. The latter experiment highlights the limits of inversions using only parent radioactive tracers: they are unable to retrieve fine scale structures such as the annual cycle. Improvements can be achieved by including daughter decaying tracers and tracers with an annual cycle at the surface. This study demonstrates the feasibility of retrieving the age spectrum from tracers, and has implications for transport diagnosis in models and observations.

Aurélien Podglajen and Felix Ploeger
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Status: open (until 30 Nov 2018)
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Aurélien Podglajen and Felix Ploeger
Aurélien Podglajen and Felix Ploeger
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Latest update: 12 Nov 2018
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Short summary
The age spectrum (distribution of transit times) provides a compact description of transport from the surface to a given point in the atmosphere. It also determines the surface-emitted tracer content of an air parcel. We propose a method to invert this relation in order to retrieve age spectra from tracer concentrations, and demonstrate its feasibility in idealized and model setups. Applied to observations, the approach might help to better constrain atmospheric transport time scales.
The age spectrum (distribution of transit times) provides a compact description of transport...
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