Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Detailed structure of the tropical upper troposphere and lower stratosphere as revealed by balloon sonde observations of water vapor, ozone, temperature, and winds during the NASA TCSP and TC4 campaigns



[1] We report on balloon sonde measurements of water vapor and ozone using the cryogenic frost point hygrometer and electrochemical concentration cell ozonesondes made at Alajuela, Costa Rica (10.0°N, 84.2°W) during two NASA airborne campaigns: the Tropical Convective Systems and Processes (TCSP) mission in July 2005 and the Tropical Composition, Clouds, and Climate Coupling Experiment (TC4), July–August 2007. In both campaigns we found an upper troposphere that was frequently supersaturated but no evidence that deep convection had reached the tropopause. The balloon sondes were complemented by campaigns of 4 times daily high-resolution radiosondes from mid-June through mid-August in both years. The radiosonde data reveal vertically propagating equatorial waves that caused a large increase in the variability of temperature in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL). These waves episodically produced cold point tropopauses (CPTs) above 18 km, yet in neither campaign was saturation observed above ∼380 K or 17 km. The averages of the water vapor minima below this level were 5.2 ppmv in TCSP and 4.8 ppmv in TC4, and the individual profile minima all lay at or above ∼360 K. The average minima in this 360–380 K layer provide a better estimate of the effective stratospheric entry value than the average mixing ratio at the CPT. We refer to this upper portion of the TTL as the tropopause saturation layer and consider it to be the locus of the final dehydration of nascent stratospheric air. As such, it is the local equivalent to the tape head of the water vapor tape recorder.