Abstract. The vertical ozone distribution over the Atlantic Ocean has been measured in situ by shipborne ozone soundings during three RV Polarstern meridional transects in January/February 1993, October/November 1993, and May/June 1994. The low ozone column densities measured by Nimbus 7 and Meteor 3 satellites in 1993 could be confirmed by our investigations. We observed distinct differences in the vertical distribution pattern of tropospheric ozone between the northern and the southern hemisphere: The ozone mixing ratio gradients were flat in the northern hemisphere and ozone mixing ratios in the free troposphere never did exceed 80 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) up to the tropopause, while the southern hemisphere exhibited a pronounced vertical gradient. Extremely dry air masses with enhanced ozone amounts up to 120 ppbv have been found in the tropical free troposphere of the southern hemisphere between 0° and 20°S. The vertical ozone stratification in the troposphere of the southern hemisphere was dominated by this large-scale feature. Photochemical ozone production as a consequence of the emissions of natural fires or intrusions of stratospheric air masses are the most probable sources for these ozone-rich layers. On the basis of our results, a stringent differentiation between both alternatives could not be given.