Global satellite measurements of HDO and implications for understanding the entry of water vapour into the stratosphere

Author: Vivienne H. Payne
Date: 
July 2, 2007
Type: 
Journal Article
Venue: 
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Citation: 

V. H. Payne, D. Noone, A. Dudhia, C. Piccolo and R. G. Grainger (2006), “Global satellite measurements of HDO and implications for understanding the entry of water vapour into the stratosphere”, QJRMS, 133, 1459-1471 (2007)

The deuterium content of water vapour in a given air mass is sensitive to its temperature and condensation history. Isotopic measurements therefore have the potential to shed light on the transport of air and water vapour into the stratosphere. Previous measurements of the isotopic composition in the upper troposphere and stratosphere have been sparse in terms of both spatial and temporal coverage. Presented here are retrievals of the deuterium content of water vapour (HDO or δD) from the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) satellite instrument. These retrievals offer the first global scale coverage of the isotopic composition of water vapour in this altitude region and span a time period of almost two years. The spatial coverage and the time span of the dataset offer previously unattainable insight into the mean seasonal and spatial distributions of the isotopic composition of water vapour in the upper troposphere and stratosphere. Measurements of HDO are extremely challenging due to low sensitivity in the spectra at low temperatures and water vapour amounts. Nonetheless, the data show a number of interesting results. Zonal mean profiles show the greatest depletion in δD in the tropical upper troposphere, with decreasing depletion with altitude in the stratosphere due to the influence of methane oxidation. Seasonal zonal means also show a strong depletion in the southern polar spring at around 300 mbar, which is thought to be related to the occurrence of polar stratospheric clouds and dehydration events in the polar vortex. Geographically, the regions and time periods where the greatest depletions are observed in the tropical upper troposphere are those associated with strong convective activity. Results confirm that temporal variability is central to the transport of water vapour into the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) and stratosphere. The data presented here show an annual cycle in δD in the TTL which is tied to temperature and suggests that this signature propagates upwards into the stratosphere. The data also show a number of points where extremely dry air is associated with relatively enriched δD values. We postulate that these points are evidence of ice lofting. Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society