Increased polar stratospheric ozone losses and delayed eventual recovery owing to increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations

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The chemical reactions responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion are extremely sensitive to temperature1. Greenhouse gases warm the Earth's surface but cool the stratosphere radiatively2,3,4,5 and therefore affect ozone depletion. Here we investigate the interplay between projected future emissions of greenhouse gases and levels of ozone-depleting halogen species using a global climate model that incorporates simplified ozone-depletion chemistry. Temperature and wind changes induced by the increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations alter planetary-wave propagation in our model, reducing the frequency of sudden stratospheric warmings in the Northern Hemisphere4. This results in a more stable Arctic polar vortex, with significantly colder temperatures in the lower stratosphere and concomitantly increased ozone depletion. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases might therefore be at least partly responsible for the very large Arctic ozone losses observed in recent winters6,7,8,9. Arctic losses reach a maximum in the decade 2010 to 2019 in our model, roughly a decade after the maximum in stratospheric chlorine abundance. The mean losses are about the same as those over the Antarctic during the early 1990s, with geographically localized losses of up to two-thirds of the Arctic ozone column in the worst years. The severity and the duration of the Antarctic ozone hole are also predicted to increase because of greenhouse-gas-induced stratospheric cooling over the coming decades.

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Figure 1: Emission trends for CO2, N2O, CH4, CFCs and chlorine (Cly) used as input to the model runs.
Figure 2: Decadally averaged vertical profiles of zonal mean ozone losses during September for the Southern Hemisphere and during March for the Northern Hemisphere.
Figure 3: Total column ozone loss averaged over 2010–19, during September for the Southern Hemisphere (top) and March for the Northern Hemisph.
Figure 4: Total column ozone minima in the polar regions during spring.


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We thank J. Hansen, R. de Zafra, G. Schmidt and J. Knox for comments. This work was supported by the NASA Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling and Analysis Program and the NASA Climate Modeling Program.

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Correspondence to Drew T. Shindell.

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Shindell, D., Rind, D. & Lonergan, P. Increased polar stratospheric ozone losses and delayed eventual recovery owing to increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations. Nature 392, 589–592 (1998) doi:10.1038/33385

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