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The interhemispheric gradient of SF6 in the upper troposphere

Schuck, T. J., J. Degen, E. Hintsa, P. Hoor, M. Jesswein, T. Keber, D. Kunkel, F. Moore, F. Obersteiner, M. Rigby, T. Wagenhäuser, L. Western, A. Zahn, and A. Engel (2024), The interhemispheric gradient of SF6 in the upper troposphere, Atmos. Chem. Phys., doi:10.5194/acp-24-689-2024.

Anthropogenic trace gases often exhibit interhemispheric gradients because of larger emissions in the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on a tracer’s emission pattern and sink processes, trace gas observations can thus be used to investigate interhemispheric transport in the atmosphere. Vice versa, understanding interhemispheric transport is important for interpreting spatial tracer distributions and for inferring emissions. We combine several data sets from the upper troposphere (UT) to investigate the interhemispheric gradient of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6 ) covering latitudes from ∼ 80◦ N to ∼ 60◦ S: canister sampling based measurements from the IAGOS-CARIBIC infrastructure and data from the in-flight gas chromatography instruments GhOST (Gas chromatograph for Observational Studies using Tracers) and UCATS (Unmanned aircraft systems Chromatograph for Atmospheric Trace Species). The interhemispheric gradient of SF6 in the UT is found to be weaker than near the surface. Using the concept of a lag time removes the increasing trend from the time series. At the most southern latitudes, a lag time of over 1 year with respect to the northern mid-latitude surface is derived, and lag times decrease over the period 2006–2020 in the extra-tropics and the southern tropics. Observations are compared to results from the two-dimensional Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) 12-box model. Based on Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR 7) emissions, fair agreement of lag times is obtained for the Northern Hemisphere, but southern hemispheric air appears too “old”. This is consistent with earlier findings that transport from the northern extra-tropics into the tropics is too slow in many models. The influence of the emission scenario and the model transport scheme are evaluated in sensitivity runs. It is found that EDGAR 7 underestimates emissions of SF6 globally and in the Southern Hemisphere, whereas northern extra-tropical emissions seem overestimated. Faster southward transport from the northern extra-tropics would be needed in the model, but transport from the southern tropics into the southern extra-tropics appears too fast.

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Atmospheric Composition
Tropospheric Composition Program (TCP)