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Evolution of Water Vapor Concentrations and Stratospheric Age of Air in Coupled Chemistry-Climate Model Simulations

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  • 1 NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Stratospheric water vapor concentrations and age of air are investigated in an ensemble of coupled chemistry-climate model simulations covering the period from 1960 to 2005. Observed greenhouse gas concentrations, halogen concentrations, aerosol amounts, and sea surface temperatures are all specified in the model as time-varying fields. The results are compared with two experiments (time-slice runs) with constant forcings for the years 1960 and 2000, in which the sea surface temperatures are set to the same climatological values, aerosol concentrations are fixed at background levels, while greenhouse gas and halogen concentrations are set to the values for the relevant years.

The time-slice runs indicate an increase in stratospheric water vapor from 1960 to 2000 due primarily to methane oxidation. The age of air is found to be significantly less in the year 2000 run than the 1960 run. The transient runs from 1960 to 2005 indicate broadly similar results: an increase in water vapor and a decrease in age of air. However, the results do not change gradually. The age of air decreases significantly only after about 1975, corresponding to the period of ozone reduction. The age of air is related to tropical upwelling, which determines the transport of methane into the stratosphere. Oxidation of increased methane from enhanced tropical upwelling results in higher water vapor amounts. In the model simulations, the rate of increase of stratospheric water vapor during the period of enhanced upwelling is up to twice the long-term mean. The concentration of stratospheric water vapor also increases following volcanic eruptions during the simulations.

Corresponding author address: Dr. John Austin, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ 08542-0308. Email: john.austin@noaa.gov

Abstract

Stratospheric water vapor concentrations and age of air are investigated in an ensemble of coupled chemistry-climate model simulations covering the period from 1960 to 2005. Observed greenhouse gas concentrations, halogen concentrations, aerosol amounts, and sea surface temperatures are all specified in the model as time-varying fields. The results are compared with two experiments (time-slice runs) with constant forcings for the years 1960 and 2000, in which the sea surface temperatures are set to the same climatological values, aerosol concentrations are fixed at background levels, while greenhouse gas and halogen concentrations are set to the values for the relevant years.

The time-slice runs indicate an increase in stratospheric water vapor from 1960 to 2000 due primarily to methane oxidation. The age of air is found to be significantly less in the year 2000 run than the 1960 run. The transient runs from 1960 to 2005 indicate broadly similar results: an increase in water vapor and a decrease in age of air. However, the results do not change gradually. The age of air decreases significantly only after about 1975, corresponding to the period of ozone reduction. The age of air is related to tropical upwelling, which determines the transport of methane into the stratosphere. Oxidation of increased methane from enhanced tropical upwelling results in higher water vapor amounts. In the model simulations, the rate of increase of stratospheric water vapor during the period of enhanced upwelling is up to twice the long-term mean. The concentration of stratospheric water vapor also increases following volcanic eruptions during the simulations.

Corresponding author address: Dr. John Austin, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ 08542-0308. Email: john.austin@noaa.gov

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