The direct inversion of the 2D continuity equation allows for the inference of the effective meridional transport of trace gases in the middle stratosphere. This method exploits the information given by both the displacement of patterns in measured trace gas distributions and the approximate balance between sinks and horizontal as well as vertical advection. Model recovery tests show that with the current setup of the algorithm, this method reliably reproduces the circulation patterns in the entire analysis domain from 6 to 66 km altitude. Due to the regularization of the inversion, velocities above about 30 km are more likely under- than overestimated. This is explained by the fact that the measured trace gas distributions at higher altitudes generally contain less information and that the regularization of the inversion pushes results towards 0. Weaker regularization would in some cases allow a more accurate recovery of the velocity fields, but there is a price to pay in that the risk of convergence failure increases. No instance was found where the algorithm generated artificial patterns not present in the reference fields. Most information on effective velocities above 50 km is included in measurements of CH.sub.4, CO, H.sub.2 O, and N.sub.2 O, while CFC-11, HCFC-22, and CFC-12 constrain the inversion most efficiently in the middle stratosphere. H.sub.2 O is a particularly important tracer in the upper troposphere or lower stratosphere. SF.sub.6 and CCl.sub.4 generally contain less information but still contribute to the reduction in the estimated uncertainties. With these tests, the reliability of the method has been established.