Evaluating stratospheric tropical width using tracer concentrations

Kasturi S. Shah, Susan Solomon, David W. J. Thompson, Douglas E. Kinnison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Quantifying the width of the tropics has important implications for understanding climate variability and the atmospheric response to anthropogenic forcing. Considerable effort has been placed on quantifying the width of the tropics at tropospheric levels, but substantially less effort has been placed on quantifying the width at stratospheric levels. Here we probe tropical width in the stratosphere using chemical tracers, which are accessible by direct measurement. Two new tracer-based width metrics are developed, denoted here as the “1σ method” and the gradient weighted latitude (GWL) method. We evaluate widths from three tracers, CH4, N2O, and SF6. We demonstrate that unlike previously proposed stratospheric width methods using tracers, these metrics perform consistently throughout the depth of the stratosphere, at all times of year and on coarse temporal data. The GWL tracer-based widths correlate well with the turnaround latitude and the critical level, where wave dissipation occurs, in the upper and midstratosphere during certain months of the year. In the lower stratosphere, the deseasonalized tracer-based widths near the tropical tropopause correlate with the deseasonalized tropopause-height based metrics. We also find that tracer-tracer width correlations are strongest at pressure levels where their chemical lifetimes are similar. These metrics represent another useful way to estimate stratospheric tropical width and explore any changes under anthropogenic forcing.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JD033081
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number21
Early online date18 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020

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