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Implications of extinction due to meteoritic smoke in the upper stratosphere

Neely, R. R., J. M. English, O. B. Toon, S. Solomon, M. Mills, and J. Thayer (2011), Implications of extinction due to meteoritic smoke in the upper stratosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L24808, doi:10.1029/2011GL049865.

Recent optical observations of aerosols in the upper stratosphere and mesosphere show significant amounts of extinction at altitudes above about 40 km where the stratospheric sulfate aerosol layer ends. Recent modeling of this region reveals that meteoritic smoke settling from the mesosphere and its interaction with the upper part of the sulfate aerosol layer is the origin of the observed extinction. Extinction in this region has major implications for the interpretation and analysis of several kinds of aerosol data (satellite and lidar). We compare observations from the SAGE II satellite and from NOAA’s lidar located at Mauna Loa, Hawaii to extinction profiles derived from the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) coupled with the Community Aerosol and Radiation Model for Atmospheres (CARMA). Our results show that a major source of extinction exists in the region above about 30 km that must be addressed by all remote sensing instruments that have traditionally used the stratosphere above about 30 km as an aerosol free region to estimate the molecular component of their total extinction. It is also shown that meteoritic smoke not only contributes to but also becomes the dominant source of aerosol extinction above 35 km and poleward of 30 degrees in latitude, as well as above 40 km in the tropics. After addressing the concerns described here, current and past observations of this region could be reanalyzed to further our understanding of meteoritic dust in the upper stratosphere.

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