Weather anomalies caused by ozone depletion at North Pole — ScienceDaily


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Most people are familiar with the hole that exists in the ozone over Antarctica. However, it is not well-known that sometimes the protective ozone found in the stratosphere above the Arctic is also destroyed, thinning the ozone layer. This occurred in the spring months 2020 and the spring of 2011.

Researchers have noticed weather anomalies in the northern hemisphere each time the ozone layer was thinned. These spring seasons were extremely warm and dry in central and northern Europe, Russia, and particularly Siberia. However, in other regions such as the polar regions, it was wet. These weather anomalies were especially evident in 2020. It was also unusually dry and warm in Switzerland that spring.

Climate research is still debating whether there is a causal link between the destruction of stratospheric Ozone and observed weather anomalies. A role is also played by the stratosphere’s polar vortex, which forms in winter but decays in spring. Scientists who have examined the phenomenon to date have come up with contradictory results.

Dr. Marina Friedel, a doctoral student, and Gabriel Chiodo (Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione Fellow), have provided new insights to the situation. Both are part of the group that is headed by Thomas Peter (ETH Zurich Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry) and they collaborate with Princeton University, among other institutions.

Simulations reveal correlation

The researchers performed simulations in which ozone depletion was integrated into two climate models to uncover a possible causal link. Climate models typically only consider physical factors, and do not include variations in stratospheric Ozone levels. This is partly because it would require more computing power.

The new calculations show that the main cause of weather anomalies in the northern hemisphere between 2011 and 2020 was ozone loss over the Arctic. The simulations that the researchers ran using the two models closely matched observational data for those two years as well as eight other similar events that were used as comparison. They were unable reproduce these results after the scientists turned off ozone destruction in their models.

“What we found most surprising from a scientific standpoint was that even though the models used for simulation were quite different, they produced comparable results,” co-author Gabriel Chiodo at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, SNSF Ambizione Fellow.


Researchers now know that the cause of the phenomenon is ozone depletion within the stratosphere. To allow ozone there to be destroyed, Arctic temperatures must be very low. Friedel explains that ozone is destroyed only when it is cold enough, and the polar vortex exists in the stratosphere at about 30 to 50 kilometers above the ground.

Normaly, ozone absorbs UV radiation that is emitted from the sun. This warms the stratosphere, and helps to break down spring’s polar vortex. If there is less of it, the stratosphere will cool down and the vortex will grow stronger. Chiodo explains that a strong Polar Vortex produces the effects seen at the Earth’s surface. Therefore, Ozone plays an important role in the temperature and circulation changes at the North Pole.

Long-term forecasts can be more accurate

These new findings may help climate scientists make better climate and seasonal forecasts. Chiodo says this allows for more accurate predictions of heat and temperature change, which is “important for agriculture.”

Friedel added, “It would be interesting to watch and model the future evolution the ozone layers.” Because ozone depletion is continuing, even though CFCs have been banned from 1989 onwards, CFCs can cause ozone damage for decades, as they are extremely long-lasting and can linger in the air for between 50 and 100 years. She says that CFC concentrations are declining steadily, which raises questions about how fast the ozone layer recovers and what impact this will have on the climate system.

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MaterialsProvided by ETH Zurich. Original by Peter Ruegg Notice: Style and length may be changed.


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