Ozone May Be Weakening One of the Earth’s Most Important Cooling Mechanisms – Heating the Planet More Than We Realize

Ozone Hole 2021

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its maximum area for the year on October 7, 2021, and ranks as the 13th largest since 1979. Scientists from NASA and NOAA reported that 2021’s ozone hole developed similarly to 2020’s: A colder than usual Southern Hemisphere winter led to a deep and larger-than-average ozone hole that will likely persist into November or December. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Ozone in the atmosphere found to have weakened one of Earth’s main cooling mechanisms.

According to new research, ozone may be weakening one of the planet’s most important cooling mechanisms, making it a more significant greenhouse gas than previously thought.

Changes in ozone levels in the upper and lower atmosphere were found to be responsible for nearly a third of the warming seen in ocean waters bordering Antarctica in the second half of the twentieth century, according to a new study.

The Southern Ocean’s deep and rapid warming has an impact on its role as one of the primary regions for absorbing excess heat as the planet warms.

The majority of this warming was the result of ozone increases in the lower atmosphere. Ozone – one of the main components of smog – is already hazardous as a pollutant, but the research shows it may also play a significant role in driving climate change in the coming years.

Dr. Michaela Hegglin, an Associate Professor in atmospheric chemistry and one of the study’s authors, said: “Ozone close to Earth’s surface is harmful to people and the environment, but this study reveals it also has a big impact on the ocean’s ability to absorb excess heat from the atmosphere.

“These findings are an eye-opener and hammer home the importance of regulating air pollution to prevent increased ozone levels and global temperatures rising further still.”

Published in Nature Climate Change, the new research by an international team of scientists was led by the University of California, Riverside.

The team used models to simulate changes in ozone levels in the upper and lower atmosphere between 1955 and 2000, to isolate them from other influences and increase the currently poor understanding of their impact on the Southern Ocean heat uptake.

These simulations showed that a decrease in ozone in the upper atmosphere and increase in the lower atmosphere both contributed to warming seen in the upper 2km of the ocean waters in the high latitudes by overall greenhouse gas increases.

They revealed that the increased ozone in the lower atmosphere caused 60% of the overall ozone-induced warming seen in the Southern Ocean over the period studied – far more than previously thought. This was surprising because tropospheric ozone increases are mainly thought of as a climate forcing in the Northern hemisphere since that is where the main pollution occurs.

Ozone hit the headlines in the 1980s when a hole was discovered in the ozone layer high in the atmosphere over the South Pole, due to damage caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a gas used in industry and consumer products.

The ozone layer is vital as it filters dangerous ultraviolet radiation from reaching Earth’s surface. This discovery led to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to halt the production of CFCs.

Dr. Hegglin said: “We have known for a while that ozone depletion high in the atmosphere has affected surface climate in the Southern Hemisphere. Our research has shown that ozone increases in the lower atmosphere due to air pollution, which occurs primarily in the Northern Hemisphere and ‘leaks’ into the Southern Hemisphere, is a serious problem as well.

“There is hope to find solutions, and the success of the Montreal Protocol at cutting CFC use shows that international action is possible to prevent damage to the planet.”

Ozone is created in the upper atmosphere by interaction between oxygen molecules and UV radiation from the sun. In the lower atmosphere, it forms due to chemical reactions between pollutants like vehicle exhaust fumes and other emissions.

Changes in ozone concentrations in the atmosphere affect westerly winds in the Southern Hemisphere as well as causing contrasting levels of salt and temperature close to the surface in the Southern Ocean. Both affect ocean currents in distinct ways, thereby affecting ocean heat uptake.

Reference: “Stratospheric ozone depletion and tropospheric ozone increases drive Southern Ocean interior warming” by Wei Liu, Michaela I. Hegglin, Ramiro Checa-Garcia, Shouwei Li, Nathan P. Gillett, Kewei Lyu, Xuebin Zhang and Neil C. Swart, 31 March 2022, Nature Climate Change.
DOI: 10.1038/s41558-022-01320-w

Funding: Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, US National Science Foundation 

6 Comments on "Ozone May Be Weakening One of the Earth’s Most Important Cooling Mechanisms – Heating the Planet More Than We Realize"

  1. Clyde Spencer | April 18, 2022 at 7:59 am | Reply

    The authors state, “These findings are an eye-opener and hammer home the importance of regulating air pollution to prevent increased ozone levels and global temperatures rising further still.”

    Four paragraphs later, “They revealed that the increased ozone in the lower atmosphere caused 60% of the overall ozone-induced warming seen in the Southern Ocean over the period studied – far more than previously thought. This was surprising because tropospheric ozone increases are mainly thought of as a climate forcing in the Northern hemisphere since that is where the main pollution occurs.”

    Yes, there does seem to be a disconnect between these statements because the majority of air pollution occurs in the industrialized countries of the northern hemisphere!

    They go on to say, “Our research has shown that ozone increases in the lower atmosphere due to air pollution, which occurs primarily in the Northern Hemisphere and ‘leaks’ into the Southern Hemisphere, is a serious problem as well.”

    I think that they have dismissed the ‘leaking’ too casually. Most of the natural ozone is produced in the tropical stratosphere and moves poleward by Brewer-Dobson cells. Yet, there is no mention of Brewer-Dobson circulation! What is the mechanism of the tropospheric ‘leaking?’ Smog is commonly worst in stagnant air masses such as the Los Angeles Basin. The prevailing winds are usually from west to east in the mid-latitudes, not north to south.

    They dogmatically state “There is hope to find solutions, and the success of the Montreal Protocol at cutting CFC use shows that international action is possible to prevent damage to the planet.” It sounds to me like whistling in the graveyard because there hasn’t really been any strong trend for about the last two decades, in contrast to the obvious upward trend in the late-20th century.

    https://scitechdaily.com/2021-antarctic-ozone-hole-13th-largest-will-persist-into-november-or-even-december/

  2. Apart from the current information contained in the article, they have nothing particularly Earth Shattering to offer, which hasn’t been “kicked around” since the early 1980s.
    And yes, this article seems “confused” and conflicted on Cause and Effect; perhaps deliberately so. Additionally, it makes no mention of Weather Modification “efforts” which have been in-play since the Mid-1970s, and continue in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Apparently, someone believes that, if ONE does not discuss such things, they do not exist. All one need do is keep pumping incomplete and outright mis-information until those who have a memory of the “Before Reset Times” fade away.
    I have tracked this site for several years now. It has become clear, at this juncture, that it is “Gussified” FLY PAPER.
    Yep! The Times, they are a’changing. But the old adage still applies; moreso now:
    The more things change, the more they stay the same. The only thing that has changed is the SPIN imparted on what this site promotes as “Good Science”. However, I continue to monitor SCITECH, to determine which way the Worm Turns as it tunnels under the Truth, and remains (by deliberate intention and design) blind to the Actuality of a Global meltdown.
    You may never read this reply. This site does not support replies to the sender. I, nonetheless, felt compelled to comment. Thank you for your insight.

    • Clyde Spencer | April 19, 2022 at 7:28 pm | Reply

      Certainly this site supports replies! While the editor rarely comments, others, such as myself can reply.

      What do you mean by “weather modification?” There have been attempts to make rain since before indigenous people held rain dances. The problem is, attempts have not been fruitful. If we had any control over weather, we wouldn’t have droughts, floods, heat waves, or blizzards because they cause the wealthy to lose money.

  3. Agreed. Their message and writeup is confusing and inconsistent.

  4. Agreed. Their message and writeup is confusing and seemingly inconsistent.

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