Record Arctic ozone depletion could occur again



In the winter of 2010–2011, ozone levels above the Arctic declined to record lows, creating the first Arctic ozone hole, similar to the well-known Antarctic ozone hole. Scientists believe the ozone depletion was due partly to unusually cold temperatures in the stratosphere above the Arctic, as colder stratospheric temperatures make ozone-destroying chemicals such as chlorine more active. As global climate change continues, the Arctic stratosphere is expected to get colder, but levels of ozone-destroying chemicals should decline, as emissions of these chemicals were banned by the Montreal Protocol. To try to learn more about Arctic ozone dynamics and determine whether the Arctic ozone hole is likely to recur, Sinnhuber et al. looked at satellite observations of temperature, ozone, water vapor, and chemicals that affect ozone in the Arctic atmosphere. They also used a model to determine how sensitive ozone levels are to stratospheric temperatures and chemistry. They found that their model accurately reproduced measured conditions. Their model suggests that stratospheric temperatures 1°C lower than in the 2010–2011 winter would result in locally nearly complete ozone depletion in the Arctic lower stratosphere with current levels of chemicals. A 10% reduction in ozone-depleting chemicals would be offset by a 1°C decrease in stratospheric temperatures.