Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA Pinpoints Causes of 2011 Arctic Ozone Hole

12.03.2013
A combination of extreme cold temperatures, man-made chemicals and a stagnant atmosphere were behind what became known as the Arctic ozone hole of 2011, a new NASA study finds.

Even when both poles of the planet undergo ozone losses during the winter, the Arctic’s ozone depletion tends to be milder and shorter-lived than the Antarctic’s. This is because the three key ingredients needed for ozone-destroying chemical reactions —chlorine from man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), frigid temperatures and sunlight— are not usually present in the Arctic at the same time: the northernmost latitudes are generally not cold enough when the sun reappears in the sky in early spring. Still, in 2011, ozone concentrations in the Arctic atmosphere were about 20 percent lower than its late winter average.


Maps of ozone concentrations over the Arctic come from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite. The left image shows March 19, 2010, and the right shows the same date in 2011. March 2010 had relatively high ozone, while March 2011 has low levels. Credit: NASA/Goddard

The new study shows that, while chlorine in the Arctic stratosphere was the ultimate culprit of the severe ozone loss of winter of 2011, unusually cold and persistent temperatures also spurred ozone destruction. Furthermore, uncommon atmospheric conditions blocked wind-driven transport of ozone from the tropics, halting the seasonal ozone resupply until April.

“You can safely say that 2011 was very atypical: In over 30 years of satellite records, we hadn’t seen any time where it was this cold for this long,” said Susan E. Strahan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and main author of the new paper, which was recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

“Arctic ozone levels were possibly the lowest ever recorded, but they were still significantly higher than the Antarctic’s,” Strahan said. “ There was about half as much ozone loss as in the Antarctic and the ozone levels remained well above 220 Dobson units, which is the threshold for calling the ozone loss a ‘hole’ in the Antarctic – so the Arctic ozone loss of 2011 didn’t constitute an ozone hole.”

The majority of ozone depletion in the Arctic happens inside the so-called polar vortex: a region of fast-blowing circular winds that intensify in the fall and isolate the air mass within the vortex, keeping it very cold.

Most years, atmospheric waves knock the vortex to lower latitudes in later winter, where it breaks up. In comparison, the Antarctic vortex is very stable and lasts until the middle of spring. But in 2011, an unusually quiescent atmosphere allowed the Arctic vortex to remain strong for four months, maintaining frigid temperatures even after the sun reappeared in March and promoting the chemical processes that deplete ozone.

The vortex also played another role in the record ozone low.

“Most ozone found in the Arctic is produced in the tropics and is transported to the Arctic,” Strahan said. “But if you have a strong vortex, it’s like locking the door -- the ozone can’t get in.”

To determine whether the mix of man-made chemicals and extreme cold or the unusually stagnant atmospheric conditions was primarily responsible for the low ozone levels observed, Strahan and her collaborators used an atmospheric chemistry and transport model (CTM) called the Global Modeling Initiative (GMI) CTM. The team ran two simulations: one that included the chemical reactions that occur on polar stratospheric clouds, the tiny ice particles that only form inside the vortex when it’s very cold, and one without. They then compared their results to real ozone observations from NASA’s Aura satellite.

The results from the first simulation reproduced the real ozone levels very closely, but the second simulation showed that, even if chlorine pollution hadn’t been present, ozone levels would still have been low due to lack of transport from the tropics. Strahan’s team calculated that the combination of chlorine pollution and extreme cold temperatures were responsible for two thirds of the ozone loss, while the remaining third was due to the atypical atmospheric conditions that blocked ozone resupply.

Once the vortex broke down and transport from the tropics resumed, the ozone concentrations rose quickly and reached normal levels in April 2011.

Strahan, who now wants to use the GMI model to study the behavior of the ozone layer at both poles during the past three decades, doesn’t think it’s likely there will be frequent large ozone losses in the Arctic in the future.

“It was meteorologically a very unusual year, and similar conditions might not happen again for 30 years,” Strahan said. “Also, chlorine levels are going down in the atmosphere because we’ve stopped producing a lot of CFCs as a result of the Montreal Protocol. If 30 years from now we had the same meteorological conditions again, there would actually be less chlorine in the atmosphere, so the ozone depletion probably wouldn’t be as severe.”

Maria-Jose Vinas
NASA's Earth Science News Team
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,Greenbelt, Md.

Maria-Jose Vinas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2011-ozone-hole.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

nachricht Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>