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Removal of chlorofluorocarbons by increased mass exchange between the stratosphere and troposphere in a changing climate

Abstract

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), along with bromine compounds, have been unequivocally identified as being responsible for most of the anthropogenic destruction of stratospheric ozone1. With curbs on emissions of these substances, the recovery of the ozone layer will depend on their removal from the atmosphere. As CFCs have no significant tropospheric removal process, but are rapidly photolysed above the lower stratosphere, the timescale for their removal is set mainly by the rate at which air is transported from the troposphere into the stratosphere2. Using a global climate model we predict that, in response to the projected changes in greenhouse-gas concentrations during the first half of the twenty-first century, this rate of mass exchange will increase by 3% per decade. This increase is due to more vigorous extra-tropical planetary waves emanating from the troposphere. We estimate that this increase in mass exchange will accelerate the removal of CFCs to an extent that recovery to levels currently predicted for 2050 and 2080 will occur 5 and 10 years earlier, respectively.

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Figure 1: Mass exchange between the troposphere and stratosphere.
Figure 2: Predicted changes in planetary-wave flux.
Figure 3: Predicted tropospheric mass mixing ratio for CFC11 and CFC12.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Austin, B. Callander, R. Derwent, J. Knight and R. Swinbank for comments. This work was supported by the Public Meteorological Services Research Programme of The Met Office, and the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

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Correspondence to Neal Butchart.

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Butchart, N., Scaife, A. Removal of chlorofluorocarbons by increased mass exchange between the stratosphere and troposphere in a changing climate. Nature 410, 799–802 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35071047

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