Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss last winter

Date:
October 3, 2011
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
A NASA-led study has documented an unprecedented depletion of Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic last winter and spring caused by an unusually prolonged period of extremely low temperatures in the stratosphere.

Left: Ozone in Earth's stratosphere at an altitude of approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) in mid-March 2011, near the peak of the 2011 Arctic ozone loss. Red colors represent high levels of ozone, while purple and grey colors (over the north polar region) represent very small ozone amounts. Right: chlorine monoxide -- the primary agent of chemical ozone destruction in the cold polar lower stratosphere -- for the same day and altitude. Light blue and green colors represent small amounts of chlorine monoxide, while dark blue and black colors represent very large chlorine monoxide amounts. The white line marks the area within which the chemical ozone destruction took place.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A NASA-led study has documented an unprecedented depletion of Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic last winter and spring caused by an unusually prolonged period of extremely low temperatures in the stratosphere.

Related Articles


The study, published online Oct. 2 in the journal Nature, finds the amount of ozone destroyed in the Arctic in 2011 was comparable to that seen in some years in the Antarctic, where an ozone "hole" has formed each spring since the mid-1980s. The stratospheric ozone layer, extending from about 10 to 20 miles (15 to 35 kilometers) above the surface, protects life on Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.

The Antarctic ozone hole forms when extremely cold conditions, common in the winter Antarctic stratosphere, trigger reactions that convert atmospheric chlorine from human-produced chemicals into forms that destroy ozone. The same ozone-loss processes occur each winter in the Arctic. However, the generally warmer stratospheric conditions there limit the area affected and the time frame during which the chemical reactions occur, resulting in far less ozone loss in most years in the Arctic than in the Antarctic.

To investigate the 2011 Arctic ozone loss, scientists from 19 institutions in nine countries (United States, Germany, The Netherlands, Canada, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Japan and Spain) analyzed a comprehensive set of measurements. These included daily global observations of trace gases and clouds from NASA's Aura and CALIPSO spacecraft; ozone measured by instrumented balloons; meteorological data and atmospheric models. The scientists found that at some altitudes, the cold period in the Arctic lasted more than 30 days longer in 2011 than in any previously studied Arctic winter, leading to the unprecedented ozone loss. Further studies are needed to determine what factors caused the cold period to last so long.

"Day-to-day temperatures in the 2010-11 Arctic winter did not reach lower values than in previous cold Arctic winters," said lead author Gloria Manney of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. "The difference from previous winters is that temperatures were low enough to produce ozone-destroying forms of chlorine for a much longer time. This implies that if winter Arctic stratospheric temperatures drop just slightly in the future, for example as a result of climate change, then severe Arctic ozone loss may occur more frequently."

The 2011 Arctic ozone loss occurred over an area considerably smaller than that of the Antarctic ozone holes. This is because the Arctic polar vortex, a persistent large-scale cyclone within which the ozone loss takes place, was about 40 percent smaller than a typical Antarctic vortex. While smaller and shorter-lived than its Antarctic counterpart, the Arctic polar vortex is more mobile, often moving over densely populated northern regions. Decreases in overhead ozone lead to increases in surface ultraviolet radiation, which are known to have adverse effects on humans and other life forms.

Although the total amount of Arctic ozone measured was much more than twice that typically seen in an Antarctic spring, the amount destroyed was comparable to that in some previous Antarctic ozone holes. This is because ozone levels at the beginning of Arctic winter are typically much greater than those at the beginning of Antarctic winter.

Manney said that without the 1989 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty limiting production of ozone-depleting substances, chlorine levels already would be so high that an Arctic ozone hole would form every spring. The long atmospheric lifetimes of ozone-depleting chemicals already in the atmosphere mean that Antarctic ozone holes, and the possibility of future severe Arctic ozone loss, will continue for decades.

"Our ability to quantify polar ozone loss and associated processes will be reduced in the future when NASA's Aura and CALIPSO spacecraft, whose trace gas and cloud measurements were central to this study, reach the end of their operational lifetimes," Manney said. "It is imperative that this capability be maintained if we are to reliably predict future ozone loss in a changing climate."

Other institutions participating in the study included Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany; NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.; Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, The Netherlands; Delft University of Technology, 2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands; Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Greenbelt, Md., and Hampton, Va.; Science and Technology Corporation, Lanham, Md.; Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Central Aerological Observatory, Russia; NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colo.; Arctic Research Center, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finland; Danish Climate Center, Danish Meteorological Institute, Denmark; Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia; National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan; National Institute for Aerospace Technology, Spain; and University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

For more information on NASA's Aura mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/aura . For more information on NASA's CALIPSO mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/calipso .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gloria L. Manney, Michelle L. Santee, Markus Rex, Nathaniel J. Livesey, Michael C. Pitts, Pepijn Veefkind, Eric R. Nash, Ingo Wohltmann, Ralph Lehmann, Lucien Froidevaux, Lamont R. Poole, Mark R. Schoeberl, David P. Haffner, Jonathan Davies, Valery Dorokhov, Hartwig Gernandt, Bryan Johnson, Rigel Kivi, Esko Kyrφ, Niels Larsen, Pieternel F. Levelt, Alexander Makshtas, C. Thomas McElroy, Hideaki Nakajima, Maria Concepciσn Parrondo, David W. Tarasick, Peter von der Gathen, Kaley A. Walker, Nikita S. Zinoviev. Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss in 2011. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10556

Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss last winter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003190937.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2011, October 3). Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss last winter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003190937.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss last winter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003190937.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) — Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) — A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Unprecedented Arctic Ozone Loss Occurred Last Winter

Oct. 3, 2011 — A new study has documented an unprecedented depletion of the Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic last winter and spring that was caused by an unusually prolonged period of extremely ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins