The ozone hole above the Arctic in spring generates unusual weather across the northern hemisphere, according to ETH Zurich researchers. It will be warmer than usual, dry, or even overly wet in several areas.
The ozone hole over Antarctica is something that many people are aware of. Less well known is the fact that the Arctic region occasionally experiences ozone layer thinning and destruction of the protecting ozone in the stratosphere. This occurred just two years ago in the springs of 2011 and 2020.
Climate scientists noticed weather anomalies following these two occurrences all over the northern hemisphere. During those springtimes, temperatures in Central and Northern Europe, Russia, and especially Siberia were unusually high and dry. Polar regions, in contrast, experienced a lot of rain. These meteorological irregularities were especially noticeable in 2020. That spring was especially warm and dry, even in Switzerland.
Climate science is divided on the question of whether the ozone hole in the stratosphere causes the observed weather anomalies. Another factor is the stratospheric polar vortex, which develops in the winter and breaks down in the spring. The data and conclusions reached by scientists who have so far investigated the phenomenon differ.
Currently, Princeton University and other universities are working with the Thomas Peter group at ETH Zurich, led by Ph.D. candidate Marina Friedel and SNSF Ambizione Fellow Gabriel Chiodo, to shed light on the issue.
The researchers recreated the event by including ozone depletion in two separate climate models in an effort to identify a potential causal association. Variations in stratospheric ozone levels are not typically taken into consideration by climate models, in part because doing so would need significantly more computational capacity.
The latest calculations, however, demonstrate that ozone destruction over the Arctic is mostly to blame for the weather anomalies seen in the northern hemisphere between 2011 and 2020. The observation data from the two years and eight additional similar events that were used as comparisons were substantially consistent with the simulations that the researchers ran using the two models. The observations, however, could not be replicated in the models when ozone destruction was “turned off.”
According to co-author Gabriel Chiodo, an SNSF Ambizione Fellow at the Institute for Atmosphere and Climate, “From a scientific point of view, what astonished us most was that the models we used for the simulations are fundamentally different, but provided a comparable conclusion.”
As the experts have recently looked into, ozone depletion in the stratosphere marks the beginning of the issue. The Arctic must have extremely low temperatures in order for ozone to be degraded there. Friedel notes that the polar vortex, which is located in the stratosphere, between 30 and 50 kilometers above the surface, must be strong in order for the ozone to be destroyed.
Ozone often absorbs UV rays from the sun, warming the stratosphere. This leads to the polar vortex’s demise in the spring. On the other hand, when there is less ozone, the stratosphere cools and the vortex intensifies. And that has an impact on the earth’s surface. The surface effects are then caused by a powerful polar vortex, claims Chiodo. Ozone thus plays a significant role in altering the climate and circulation near the North Pole.
Possibility of More Accurate Long-Term Forecasts
Future seasonal weather and climate projections may be more precise thanks to the latest results in climatology. This makes predicting changes in heat and temperature easier. Chiodo underlines, “This is vital for agriculture.”
According to Friedel, it will be intriguing to watch and predict how the ozone layer will change in the future. because ozone depletion persists despite the 1989 ban on ozone-depleting compounds like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Due to their high persistence, CFCs can linger in the atmosphere for up to 100 years.
After being phased out for many years, they still continue to exercise their destructive potential. The ozone layer’s ability to quickly regenerate and its impact on the climate system are both raised by the fact that the CFC content is steadily declining, according to the climate researcher.
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