Comments on some recent measurements of anomalously steep N2O and O3 tracer spectra in the stratospheric surf zone

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 62 - Review of books or of software (or similar publications/items)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24001-24004
Journal / PublicationJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


Recent aircraft measurements, primarily in the extratropics, of the horizontal variance of nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone (O3) in the middle stratosphere indicate that horizontal spectra of the tracer variance scale nearly as k-2, where k is the spatial wavenumber along the aircraft flight track [Strahan and Mahlman, 1994; Bacmeister et al., 1996]. This spectral scaling has been regarded as inconsistent with the accepted picture of stratospheric tracer motion; large-scale quasi-two-dimensional tracer advection typically yields a k-1 scaling (i.e., the classical Batchelor spectrum). In this paper it is argued that the nearly k-2 scaling seen in the measurements is a natural outcome of quasi-two-dimensional filamentation of the polar vortex edge. The accepted picture of stratospheric tracer motion can thus be retained: no additional physical processes are needed to account for deviations from the Batchelor spectrum. Our argument is based on the finite lifetime of tracer filaments and on the "singularity spectrum" associated with a one-dimensional field composed of randomly spaced jumps in concentration.