Horizontal water vapor transport in the lower stratosphere from subtropics to high latitudes during boreal summer

F. Ploeger, G. Günther, P. Konopka, Stephan Andreas Fueglistaler, R. Müller, C. Hoppe, A. Kunz, R. Spang, J. U. Grooß, M. Riese

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We compare global water vapor observations from Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) and simulations with the Lagrangian chemical transport model CLaMS (Chemical Lagrangian Model of the Stratosphere) to investigate the pathways of water vapor into the lower stratosphere during Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer. We find good agreement between the simulation and observations, with an effect of the satellite averaging kernel especially at high latitudes. The Asian and American monsoons emerge as regions of particularly high water vapor mixing ratios in the lower stratosphere during boreal summer. In NH midlatitudes and high latitudes, a clear anticorrelation between water vapor and ozone daily tendencies reveals a large region influenced by frequent horizontal transport from low latitudes, extending up to about 450K during summer and fall. Analysis of the zonal mean tracer continuity equation shows that close to the subtropics, this horizontal transport is mainly caused by the residual circulation. In contrast, at higher latitudes, poleward of about 50°N, eddy mixing dominates the horizontal water vapor transport. Model simulations with transport barriers confirm that almost the entire annual cycle of water vapor in NH midlatitudes above about 360K, with maximum mixing ratios during summer and fall, is caused by horizontal transport from low latitudes. In the model, highest water vapor mixing ratios in this region are clearly linked to horizontal transport from the subtropics. Key Points High H2O in mid-latitude UTLS is horizontally transported from subtropics Annual H2O cycle in NH UTLS (360-450K) is linked to horizontal transport Hor. transport due to residual circ. equatorwards 50N, to eddy mixing polewards

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8111-8127
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 27 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Asian monsoon
  • UTLS
  • horizontal transport
  • stratosphere-troposphere exchange
  • water vapor
  • water vapor continuity equation


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