Effects of intense stratospheric ionisation events

Abstract

High levels of ionising radiation in the Earth's stratosphere will lead to increased concentrations of nitrogen oxides and decreased concentrations of ozone. Changes in the surface environment will include an increased level of biologically harmful UV radiation, caused by the ozone depletion, and a decreased level of visible solar radiation, due to the presence of major enhancements in the stratospheric concentration of nitrogen dioxide. These changes are studied quantitatively, using the passage of the Solar System through a supernova remnant shell as an example. Some of the potential environmental changes are a substantial global cooling, abnormally dry conditions, a reduction in global photosynthesis and a large increase in the flux of atmospheric fixed nitrogen to the surface of the Earth. Such events might have been the cause of mass extinctions in the distant past.

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Reid, G., McAfee, J. & Crutzen, P. Effects of intense stratospheric ionisation events. Nature 275, 489–492 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1038/275489a0

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