Australian, Korean and USA scientists have produced a 65-year record of nitrous oxide changes in the Southern Hemisphere to better predict the future for this long-lived greenhouse gas which is increasing with expanding fertiliser use.

Published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, the record is drawn from atmospheric sampling at the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, Tasmania, and air extracted from the Antarctic ice sheet.

Its significance, says co-author CSIRO’s Dr David Etheridge, will be its contribution to the development of emissions protocols as countries step up their monitoring of gases contributing to global warming and ozone depletion.

Nitrous oxide, N2O, is produced naturally by microbial activity in soils and the oceans as well as by agriculture. With a lifetime in the atmosphere of around 120 years, it is eventually broken down by oxidation in the stratosphere.

Scientists have measured a 20 per cent increase in atmospheric nitrous oxide since 1750.

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