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Letters to Nature
Nature 375, 131 - 134 (11 May 1995); doi:10.1038/375131a0

Observational evidence for chemical ozone depletion over the Arctic in winter 1991–92

Peter von der Gathen*, Markus Rex*, Neil R. P. Harris§, Diana Lucic§, Bjørn M. Knudsen, Geir O. Braathen§, Hugo De Backer£, Rolf Fabianstar, Hans Faststar, Manuel Gil**, Esko Kyrö, Ib Steen Mikkelsen, Markku Rummukainen, Johannes Stähelin & Costas Varotsos§§

*Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, PO Box 60 01 49, D-14401 Potsdam, Germany
Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, PO Box 33 04 40, D-28334 Bremen, Germany
European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit, British Antarctic Survey, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 GET, UK
§Centre for Atmospheric Science, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK
Danish Meteorological Institute, Lyngbyvej 100, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
NILU, PO Box 100, Instituttveien 18, N-2007 Kjeller, Norway
£Royal Meteorological Institute, Ringlann 3, B-1180 Brussel, Belgium
starAtmospheric Environment Service, 4905 Dufferin Street, North York, Ontario M3H 5T4, Canada
**Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aerospacial, Torrejón de Argoz, 28850 Madrid, Spain
Finnish Meteorological Institute, Ilmala, SF-99600 Sodankylä, Finland
Laboratory for Atmospheric Physics, ETH-Hönggerberg, CH-8093 Zürich, Switzerland
§§Department of Applied Physics, University of Athens, 36, Knossou Ano, Glyfada, 16561 Athens, Greece

LONG-TERM depletion of ozone has been observed since the early 1980s in the Antarctic polar vortex, and more recently at mid-latitudes in both hemispheres, with most of the ozone loss occurring in the lower stratosphere1. Insufficient measurements of ozone exist, however, to determine decadal trends in ozone concentration in the Arctic winter. Several studies of ozone concentrations in the Arctic vortex have inferred that chemical ozone loss has occurred2–11; but because natural variations in ozone concentration at any given location can be large, deducing long-term trends from time series is fraught with difficulties. The approaches used previously have often been indirect, typically relying on relationships between ozone and long-lived tracers. Most recently Manney et al. 11used such an approach, based on satellite measurements, to conclude that the observed ozone decrease of about 20% in the lower stratosphere in February and March 1993 was caused by chemical, rather than dynamical, processes. Here we report the results of a new approach to calculate chemical ozone destruction rates that allows us to compare ozone concentrations in specific air parcels at different times, thus avoiding the need to make assumptions about ozone/tracer ratios. For the Arctic vortex of the 1991-92 winter we find that, at 20 km altitude, chemical ozone loss occurred only between early January and mid February and that the loss is proportional to the exposure to sunlight. The timing and magnitude are broadly consistent with existing understanding of photochemical ozone-depletion processes.

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