Articles | Volume 14, issue 3
Research article
31 Mar 2021
Research article |  | 31 Mar 2021

A method for resolving changes in atmospheric He ∕ N2 as an indicator of fossil fuel extraction and stratospheric circulation

Benjamin Birner, William Paplawsky, Jeffrey Severinghaus, and Ralph F. Keeling

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Cited articles

Arblaster, J. M., Gillett, N. P., Calvo, N., Forster, P. M., Polvani, L. M., Son, S.-W., Waugh, D. W., and Young, P. J.: Stratospheric ozone changes and climate, Chapter 4, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2014, Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project – Report No. 55. Geneva, Switzerland, 2014. 
Baggenstos, D., Häberli, M., Schmitt, J., Shackleton, S. A., Birner, B., Severinghaus, J. P., Kellerhals, T., and Fischer, H.: Earth's radiative imbalance from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present, P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 116, 14881–14886,, 2019. 
Belikov, D., Sugawara, S., Ishidoya, S., Hasebe, F., Maksyutov, S., Aoki, S., Morimoto, S., and Nakazawa, T.: Three-dimensional simulation of stratospheric gravitational separation using the NIES global atmospheric tracer transport model, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 19, 5349–5361,, 2019. 
Bereiter, B., Shackleton, S., Baggenstos, D., Kawamura, K., and Severinghaus, J.: Mean global ocean temperatures during the last glacial transition, Nature, 553, 39–44,, 2018. 
Birner, B., Chipperfield, M. P., Morgan, E. J., Stephens, B. B., Linz, M., Feng, W., Wilson, C., Bent, J. D., Wofsy, S. C., Severinghaus, J., and Keeling, R. F.: Gravitational separation of Ar/N2 and age of air in the lowermost stratosphere in airborne observations and a chemical transport model, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 12391–12408,, 2020. 
Short summary
The atmospheric helium-to-nitrogen ratio is a promising indicator for circulation changes in the upper atmosphere and fossil fuel burning by humans. We present a very precise analysis method to determine changes in the helium-to-nitrogen ratio of air samples. The method relies on stabilizing the gas flow to a mass spectrometer and continuous removal of reactive gases. These advances enable new insights and monitoring possibilities for anthropogenic and natural processes.