Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Record depletion of Arctic ozone layer caused increased UV radiation in Scandinavia

05.04.2011
Brief episodes of increased UV radiation may also occur over Central Europe

Over the past few days ozone-depleted air masses extended from the north pole to southern Scandinavia leading to higher than normal levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation during sunny days in southern Finland.

These air masses will move east over the next few days, covering parts of Russia and perhaps extend as far south as the Chinese/Russian border. Such excursions of ozone-depleted air may also occur over Central Europe and could reach as far south as the Mediterranean. On an international press conference by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Vienna today, atmospheric researcher Dr. Markus Rex from Germany´s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) pointed out that the current situation in the Arctic ozone layer is unparalleled.

“Such massive ozone loss has so far never occurred in the northern hemisphere, which is densely populated even at high latitudes,” AWI researcher Markus Rex describes the situation. The ozone layer protects life on Earth’s surface from harmful solar ultraviolet radiation. Because of the low inclination angle of the sun, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is not normally a public health concern at high northern latitudes. However, if ozone-depleted air masses drift further south over Central Europe, south Canada, the US, or over Central Asiatic Russia, for example, the surface intensity of UV radiation could lead to sunburn within minutes for sensitive persons, even in April.

Whether and when this may occur can be forecasted reliably only in the short term. People should thus follow the UV forecasts of regional weather services. “If elevated levels of surface UV occur, they will last a few days and sun protection will be necessary on those days, especially for children”, Rex recommends.

The expected UV intensity during these short episodes will, however, remain in the range of typical exposure at the height of summer and below the values that occur during holiday trips to the tropics. Extreme caution is therefore unnecessary. “The concern is that people don’t expect to get sunburn so rapidly early in the year and consequently don’t take sun protection as seriously as in the middle of summer or while on vacation,” states Rex. Any sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life and this adverse effect is particularly pronounced in children.

“But provided that UV-protection is used it is safe and even healthy to exercise normal outdoor activities even during low ozone episodes. Particularly in countries high up in the north people tend to suffer from vitamin D deficit after the dark winter and Sun is a natural source of it”, adds Dr. Esko Kyrö from Arctic Research Center at Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The air masses with very low ozone concentrations will eventually disperse, as the sun warms the stratosphere and the winds change, as happens every year in spring. This will lead to somewhat lower ozone in spring and early summer this year, as the low ozone from the Arctic mixes with other stratospheric air throughout the northern hemisphere. This effect will be small, due to the large dilution of the ozone depleted air masses in background air.

As noted some weeks ago (AWI press release on 14.03.2011), the Arctic stratosphere has been unusually cold this winter, resulting in a transformation of chlorine supplied by industrial compounds into other forms that aggressively remove ozone. Since then the ozone removal process gained additional momentum by the return of sunlight to the Arctic, which is needed for the chemical processes to occur. The current amount of ozone depletion above the Arctic is far beyond that recorded for any other spring, over the time when ozone has been measured by modern instrumentation. These findings are based on an international network of 30 ozone sounding stations in the Arctic and Subarctic that is coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Background:

This year’s Arctic ozone depletion is caused by industrial CFCs and related compounds. Production of these chemicals was banned by the Montreal Protocol. Ozone loss was particularly large this winter due to unusually low temperature, which results in the presence of clouds in the polar stratosphere. Reactions on the surface of these clouds transform chlorine containing breakdown products of CFCs into compounds that aggressively remove ozone. Even though the Montreal Protocol has successfully banned the production of CFCs and related compounds, chlorine levels in the Arctic stratosphere are only about 5% below the prior peak level, due to the long atmospheric lifetime of CFCs (removal takes 50 to 100 years). The Arctic ozone layer will remain vulnerable to depletion for the next several decades, particularly following unusually cold winters. In contrast, temperatures within the Antarctic stratosphere are cold enough, each winter, to lead to widespread occurrence of stratospheric clouds that are part of the chain of events that causes the Antarctic ozone hole that occurs each spring.

The stratosphere has been observed to cool, following the rise of greenhouse gases (GHGs), because heat that would otherwise reach the stratosphere is trapped below, warming the surface. The situation for the Polar Stratosphere is more complicated because of dynamical heating by waves generated in frontal systems. For several years, however, scientists have noted that the coldest winters in the Arctic stratosphere are getting colder, a development that enhances the ozone-destroying efficiency of the remaining CFCs and could be linked to rising levels of GHGs. “The current winter is a striking continuation of this tendency. Hence, we are not surprised by the fact that such massive ozone depletion has now occurred above the Arctic”, says Rex. “Determining the role that GHG driven climate change might play for Arctic ozone loss is a great challenge and the subject of on-going research throughout the international atmospheric sciences community” states Ross Salawitch of the University of Maryland. The European Union contributes to financing this research in the RECONCILE project, a 3.5 million euro research programme in which 16 research institutions from eight European countries are working towards improved understanding of the Arctic ozone layer.

“On the basis of international agreements on protection of the ozone layer, the specifically the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, we expect, however, that ozone depletion due to CFCs will finally become passé towards the end of the century. This is an impressive success of international environmental policy under the umbrella of the United Nations. This success is only temporarily clouded by the record ozone loss above the Arctic this year”, says Rex. For several decades, however, the fate of the Arctic ozone layer each spring will be closely linked to the evolution of temperatures in the polar stratosphere.

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and middle latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the seventeen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

The following institutions and persons have contributed to this work:

Belgium
Hugo De Backer, Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, +32 2 3730594, Hugo.DeBacker@meteo.be
Canada
Tom McElroy, Environment Canada, +1 416 739 4630, Tom.McElroy@ec.gc.ca
David W. Tarasick, Air Quality Res. Div., Environ. Canada, +1 416 739-4623, david.tarasick@ec.gc.ca

Kaley A. Walker, Univ. Toronto, Dep. of Physics, +1 416 978 8218, kwalker@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca

Czech Republic
Pavla Skrivankova, Dep. of Remote Obs., Czech Hydromet. Inst., +420 244033271, skrivankova@chmi.cz

Karel Vanicek, Solar and Ozone Observatory, Czech Hydromet. Inst., +420 495260352, vanicek@chmi.cz

Denmark
Niels Larsen, Danish Climate Center, Danish Meteorological Institute, +45-3915-7414, nl@dmi.dk
Finland
Rigel Kivi, Arctic Research Center, Finnish Meteorological Institute, +358 405424543, rigel.kivi@fmi.fi

Esko Kyrö, Arctic Research Center, Finnish Meteorological Institute, +358 405527438, esko.kyro@fmi.fi

France
Sophie Godin-Beekmann, Gerard Ancellet, LATMOS CNRS-UPMC, +33 1442747 67 / 62, sophie.godin-beekmann@latmos.ipsl.fr, gerard.ancellet@latmos.ipsl.fr
Germany
Hans Claude, Wolfgang Steinbrecht, Ulf Köhler, Deutscher Wetterdienst Hohenpeißenberg, +49 8805 954 170 / 172 / 171, hans.claude@dwd.de, wolfgang.steinbrecht@dwd.de, ulf.koehler@dwd.de
Greece
Dimitris Balis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, +30 2310 998192, balis@auth.gr
Costas Varotsos, University of Athens, +30 210 7276838, covar@phys.uoa.gr
Christos Zerefos, Academy of Athens, +30 210 8832048, zerefos@academyofathens.gr
Great Britain
Neil Harris, European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit, University of Cambridge, Neil.Harris@ozone-sec.ch.cam.ac.uk
Ireland
Keith Lambkin, Valentia Observatory Met Éireann, +353 66 9473463, keith.lambkin@met.ie
Japan
Hideaki Nakajima, National Inst. for Environmental Studies, +81 29 850 2800, nakajima@nies.go.jp
Norway
Cathrine Lund Myhre, NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research, +47-63898042, clm@nilu.no
Russia
Valery Dorokhov, Central Aerological Observatory , +7 499 206 9370, vdor@starlink.ru
Vladimir Yushkov, Central Aerological Observatory +7 495 408-6150, vladimir@caomsk.mipt.ru

Natalya Tsvetkova, Central Aerological Observatory +7 495 408-6150, nat@caomsk.mipt.ru

Spain
Concepción Parrondo, Manuel Gil , INTA, +34 91 5201564, parrondosc@inta.es, gilm@inta.es
Switzerland
René Stübi, Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, MeteoSwiss, +41 26 662 62 29, rene.stubi@meteoswiss.ch

Geir O. Braathen, World Meteorological Organization, +41 22 730 82 35, GBraathen@wmo.int

USA
Bryan Johnson, NOAA/ESRL,CO, +1 303 497 6842, bryan.johnson@noaa.gov
Ross J. Salawitch, Univ. of Maryland, MD, +1 626 487 5643, rjs@atmos.umd.edu
Francis J. Schmidlin, NASA/GSFC/Wallops Flight Facility, +1 757 824 1618, francis.j.schmidlin@nasa.gov

Margarete Pauls | idw
Further information:
http://www.awi.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future
27.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Penn researchers quantify the changes that lightning inspires in rock
27.04.2017 | University of Pennsylvania

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>