Ground-based infrared measurements of HNO3 total column abundances: Long-term trend and variability


  • C. P. Rinsland,

  • R. Zander,

  • P. Demoulin


The long-term trend and variability of the total column amount of atmospheric nitric acid (HNO3) have been investigated based on time series of infrared solar absorption spectra recorded at two remote high-altitude sites, the International Scientific Station of the Jungfraujoch (ISSJ) in the Swiss Alps (altitude 3.6 km, latitude 46.5°N, longitude 8.0°E) and the National Solar Observatory McMath solar telescope facility on Kitt Peak (altitude 2.1 km, latitude 31.9°N, longitude 111.6°W), southwest of Tucson, Arizona. The HNO3 ν5 band Q branch at 879.1 cm−1 and three P branch manifolds near 869 cm−1 were analyzed using a nonlinear least squares spectral fitting technique and a consistent set of spectroscopic line parameters. The ISSJ measurements evaluated in the present work consist of two solar spectra recorded with a grating spectrometer in June 1951 and a set of observations obtained with a high-resolution Fourier transform spectrometer between June 1986 and June 1990. The modern ISSJ measurements show a ∼20% peak-to-peak amplitude seasonal cycle with a winter maximum superimposed on significant variability and a summer minimum; the June results from 1986 to 1990 are both higher and lower than the two retrieved June 1951 HNO3 total column amounts. The fitted trend, (−0.16±0.50)% yr−1, 2σ, indicates that there has been no detectable change in the HNO3 total column over the last 4 decades. The Kitt Peak measurements, recorded with a high-resolution Fourier transform spectrometer between December 1980 and June 1990, also show marked variability in the HNO3 total column, but in contrast to the ISSJ measurements, no obvious seasonal cycle is observed. The deduced trend in the total column above Kitt Peak, (−0.8±1.6)% yr−1, 2σ, is consistent with the ISSJ time series of measurements, in that no significant HNO3 long-term trend has been found. The sets of measurements from the two sites are compared with each other and with previously published results, with emphasis on the reported variability of HNO3 and the changes in the HNO3 total column with season and latitude.