Atmos. Chem. Phys., 6, 3535-3556, 2006
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In general, the magnitude of the apparent fractionation constants (i.e., apparent isotope effects) increases continuously with altitude and decreases from the equator to the North Pole. Only the latter observation can be understood qualitatively by the interplay between the time-scales of N2O photochemistry and transport in a Rayleigh fractionation framework. Deviations from Rayleigh fractionation behavior also occur where polar vortex air mixes with nearly N2O-free upper stratospheric/mesospheric air (e.g., during the boreal winters of 2003 and possibly 1992). Aircraft observations in the polar vortex at mixing ratios below 200 nmol mol−1 deviate from isotope variations expected for both Rayleigh fractionation and two-end-member mixing, but could be explained by continuous weak mixing between intravortex and extravortex air (Plumb et al., 2000). However, it appears that none of the simple approaches described here can capture all features of the stratospheric N2O isotope distribution, again justifying the use of 3-D models. Finally, correlations between 18O/16O and average 15N/14N isotope ratios or between the position-dependent 15N/14N isotope ratios show that photo-oxidation makes a large contribution to the total N2O sink in the lower stratosphere (possibly up to 100% for N2O mixing ratios above 300 nmol mol−1). Towards higher altitudes, the temperature dependence of these isotope correlations becomes visible in the stratospheric observations.