Long tails in deep columns of natural and anthropogenic tropospheric tracers

Neelin, J. D., B. R. Lintner, B. Tian, Q. Li, L. Zhang, P. K. Patra, M. T. Chahine, and S. N. Stechmann (2010), Long tails in deep columns of natural and anthropogenic tropospheric tracers, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L05804, doi:10.1029/2009GL041726.

Simple prototypes for forced advection‐diffusion problems are known to produce passive tracer distributions that exhibit approximately exponential or stretched exponential tails. Having previously found an approximately exponential tail for the column integrated water vapor (CWV) distribution under high precipitation conditions, we conjectured that if such prototypes are relevant to more complex tropospheric tracer problems, we should find such tails for a wide set of tracers. Here it is shown that such tails are indeed ubiquitous in observed, model, and reanalysis data sets for a variety of tracers, either column integrated or averaged through a deep layer, including CO and CO2. The long tails in CWV are associated with vertical transport and can occur independent of a local precipitation sink. These non‐Gaussian distributions can have consequences for source attribution studies of anthropogenic tracers, and for mechanisms of precipitation extremes; the properties of the tails may help constrain model tracer simulations.

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Modeling Analysis and Prediction Program (MAP)
Atmospheric Composition
Energy & Water Cycle Program (EWCP)
Climate Variability and Change Program
Atmospheric Dynamics and Precipitation Program (ADP)