Estimating the Meridional Extent of Adiabatic Mixing in the Stratosphere Using Age-Of-Air

Aman Gupta, Marianna Linz, Jezabel Curbelo, Olivier Pauluis, Edwin P. Gerber, Douglas E. Kinnison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wave-induced adiabatic mixing in the winter midlatitudes is one of the key processes impacting stratospheric transport. Understanding its strength and structure is vital to understanding the distribution of trace gases and their modulation under a changing climate. Age-of-air is often used to understand stratospheric transport, and this study proposes refinements to the vertical age gradient theory of Linz et al. (2021), The theory assumes exchange of air between a well-mixed tropics and a well-mixed extratropics, separated by a transport barrier, quantifying the adiabatic mixing flux across the interface using age-based measures. These assumptions are re-evaluated and a refined framework that includes the effects of meridional tracer gradients is established to quantify the mixing flux. This is achieved, in part, by computing a circulation streamfunction in age-potential temperature coordinates to generate a complete distribution of parcel ages being mixed in the midlatitudes. The streamfunction quantifies the “true” age of parcels mixed between the tropics and the extratropics. Applying the revised theory to an idealized and a comprehensive climate model reveals that ignoring the meridional gradients in age leads to an underestimation of the wave-driven mixing flux. Stronger, and qualitatively similar fluxes are obtained in both models, especially in the lower-to-middle stratosphere. While the meridional span of adiabatic mixing in the two models exhibits some differences, they show that the deep tropical pipe, that is, latitudes equatorward of 15° barely mix with older midlatitude air. The novel age-potential temperature circulation can be used to quantify additional aspects of stratospheric transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022JD037712
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 27 2023


  • age of air
  • atmospheric transport
  • dynamics-transport coupling
  • stratospheric transport
  • transport modeling
  • wave-induced mixing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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