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Geophysical Research Letters

Plutonium-238 observations as a test of modeled transport and surface deposition of meteoric smoke particles

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Abstract

[1] There are large uncertainties in the transport and surface deposition of upper atmospheric particles used to construct climate proxies. Here we use a 3-D chemistry-climate model (CCM) to simulate the transport and deposition of plutonium-238 oxide nanoparticles formed after the ablation of a power unit in the upper stratosphere (~11°S) in 1964. The model reproduces both the observed hemispheric asymmetry and time scale of Pu-238 deposition. We then use the CCM to investigate the transport of meteoric smoke particles (MSPs) from the upper mesosphere. The strongest MSP deposition is predicted to occur at middle latitudes, providing a significant source of Fe fertilization to the Southern Ocean. The model also predicts substantially more deposition in Greenland than in Antarctica (by a factor of ~15, in agreement with ice core measurements), showing that climate proxy measurements from a limited number of sites must be interpreted with care.

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