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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  15 Sep 2020

15 Sep 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Measurements of atmospheric He/N2 as an indicator of fossil fuel extraction and stratospheric circulation

Benjamin Birner, William Paplawsky, Jeffrey Severinghaus, and Ralph F. Keeling Benjamin Birner et al.
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

Abstract. The atmospheric He/N2 ratio is expected to be increasing due to the emission of He associated with fossil fuels and is expected to also vary in both space and time due to gravitational separation in the stratosphere. These signals may be useful indicators of fossil-fuel exploitation and variability in stratospheric circulation, but direct measurements of He/N2 ratio are lacking on all time scales. Here we present a high-precision custom inlet system for mass spectrometers that continuously stabilizes the flow of gas during sample-standard comparison and removes all non-noble gases from the gas stream, enabling unprecedented accuracy in measurement of relative changes in the 4He/N2 ratio. Repeat measurements of the same combination of high-pressure tanks using our inlet system achieves a reproducibility of ~ 10 per meg (i.e. 0.001 %) in 6–8 h analyses. This compares to interannual changes of He/N2 gravitational enrichment at ~ 35 km in the mid latitude stratosphere of order 300–400 per meg, and an annual tropospheric increase from human fossil fuel activity of less than ~ 30 per meg y−1 (bounded by previous work on helium isotopes). The gettering and flow-stabilizing inlet may also be used for the analysis of other noble gas isotopes and could resolve previously unobserved seasonal cycles in Kr/N2 and Xe/N2.

Benjamin Birner et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Benjamin Birner et al.

Benjamin Birner et al.


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