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Trends and seasonal cycles in the isotopic composition of nitrous oxide since 1940


Park, S and Croteau, P and Boering, KA and Etheridge, DM and Ferretti, D and Fraser, PJ and Kim, K-R and Krummel, PB and Langenfelds, RL and van Ommen, TD and Steele, LP and Trudinger, CM, Trends and seasonal cycles in the isotopic composition of nitrous oxide since 1940, Nature Geoscience, 5, (4) pp. 261-265. ISSN 1752-0894 (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited

DOI: doi:10.1038/ngeo1421


The atmospheric nitrous oxide mixing ratio has increased by 20% since 1750. Given that nitrous oxide is both a long-lived greenhouse gas and a stratospheric ozone-depleting substance, this increase is of global concern. However, the magnitude and geographic distribution of nitrous oxide sources, and how they have changed over time, is uncertain. A key unknown is the influence of the stratospheric circulation, which brings air depleted in nitrous oxide to the surface. Here, we report the oxygen and intramolecular nitrogen isotopic compositions of nitrous oxide in firn air samples from Antarctica and archived air samples from Cape Grim, Tasmania, spanning 1940-2005. We detect seasonal cycles in the isotopic composition of nitrous oxide at Cape Grim. The phases and amplitudes of these seasonal cycles allow us to distinguish between the influence of the stratospheric sink and the oceanic source at this site, demonstrating that isotope measurements can help in the attribution and quantification of surface sources in general. Large interannual variations and long-term decreasing trends in isotope composition are also apparent. These long-term trends allow us to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic sources of nitrous oxide, and confirm that the rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide levels is largely the result of an increased reliance on nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:isotopic composition, nitrous oxide
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Glaciology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences
UTAS Author:van Ommen, TD (Dr Tas van Ommen)
ID Code:79564
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:162
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2012-09-19
Last Modified:2013-04-26

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