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Nitrous oxide Sinks

The Stratosphere

The majority of atmospheric nitrous oxide is destroyed in the stratosphere by reaction with light and excited oxygen atoms. The breakup of nitrous oxide molecules in this way results in an average atmospheric lifetime of around 120 years. It is this long lifetime which helps to make nitrous oxide such a powerful greenhouse gas.


The uptake of nitrous oxide by soils is generally regarded to be small on a global scale. It is driven by denitrification by soil bacteria, which convert nitrous oxide into nitrogen gas. In most global nitrous oxide budgets soil uptake is simply included in the total net flux of nitrous oxide from soils.


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