Articles | Volume 16, issue 11
30 Nov 1998
30 Nov 1998

Cooling of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere due to doubling of CO2

R. A. Akmaev and V. I. Fomichev

Abstract. A new parameterization of infrared radiative transfer in the 15-μm CO2 band has been incorporated into the Spectral mesosphere/lower thermosphere model (SMLTM). The parameterization is applicable to calculations of heating rates above approximately 15 km for arbitrary vertical profiles of the CO2 concentration corresponding to the surface mixing ratio in the range 150–720 ppm. The sensitivity of the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) to doubling of CO2 has been studied. The thermal response in the MLT is mostly negative (cooling) and much stronger than in the lower atmosphere. An average cooling at the stratopause is about 14 K. It gradually decreases to approximately 8 K in the upper mesosphere and again increases to about 40–50 K in the thermosphere. The cooling and associated thermal shrinking result in a substantial density reduction in the MLT that reaches 40–45% in the thermosphere. Various radiative, chemical, and dynamical feedbacks potentially important for the thermal response in the MLT are discussed. It is noted that the results of simulations are strikingly similar to observations of long-term trends in the MLT. This suggests that during the last 3–4 decades the thermal structure in the real upper atmosphere has undergone substantial changes driven by forcing comparable with that due to doubling of CO2.

Key words. Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (Climatology · Middle atmosphere dynamics · Thermospheric dynamics)