High concentrations of ozone are found in the Earth's stratosphere, but strong stratification suppresses efficient exchange of this ozone-rich air with the underlying troposphere. Upward transport of tropospheric trace constituents occurs mainly through equatorial deep convective systems. In contrast, significant downward transport of ozone-rich stratospheric air is thought to take place only outside the tropics by exchange processes in upper-level fronts associated with strong distortions of the tropopause. Ozone within the tropical troposphere is assumed to originate predominantly from ground-based emissions of ozone precursors, particularly from biomass burning, rather than from a stratospheric source. Recent measurements of ozone in the upper troposphere in convective regions over the Pacific Ocean indeed reveal near-zero concentrations. Here we present sharply contrasting observations: ozone-rich (100-500 parts per billion by volume) transients were frequently encountered by specially equipped commercial aircraft at a cruising altitude of 10-12 km (in the upper troposphere) in the vicinity of strong convective activity over the equatorial Atlantic Ocean. This strongly suggests that the input of stratospheric ozone into the troposphere can take place in the tropics. We suggest that this transport occurs either by direct downward movement of air masses or by quasi-isentropic transport from the extratropical stratosphere.
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