Letter | Published:

Attribution of historical ozone forcing to anthropogenic emissions

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 567570 (2013) | Download Citation


Anthropogenic ozone radiative forcing is traditionally separately attributed to tropospheric and stratospheric changes assuming that these have distinct causes1. Using the interactive composition–climate model GISS-E2-R we find that this assumption is not justified. Our simulations show that changes in emissions of tropospheric ozone precursors have substantial effects on ozone in both regions, as do anthropogenic halocarbon emissions. On the basis of our results, further simulations with the NCAR-CAM3.5 model2, and published studies3,4, we estimate industrial era (1850–2005) whole-atmosphere ozone forcing of 0.5 W m−2 due to anthropogenic tropospheric precursors and about −0.2 W m−2 due to halocarbons. The net troposphere plus stratosphere forcing is similar to the net halocarbon plus precursor ozone forcing, but the latter provides a more useful perspective. The halocarbon-induced ozone forcing is roughly two-thirds the magnitude of the halocarbon direct forcing but opposite in sign, yielding a net forcing of only 0.1 W m−2. Thus, the net effect of halocarbons has been smaller, and the effect of tropospheric ozone precursors has been greater, than generally recognized.

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We thank NASA MAP for financial support and the NCCS for computer services.

Author information

Author notes

    • Apostolos Voulgarakis

    Present address: Department of Physics, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK


  1. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, New York, New York 10025, USA

    • Drew Shindell
    • , Greg Faluvegi
    • , Larissa Nazarenko
    • , Apostolos Voulgarakis
    • , Gavin A. Schmidt
    • , Olga Pechony
    •  & Reto Ruedy
  2. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, USA

    • Kevin Bowman
  3. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA

    • Jean-Francois Lamarque


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G.F. performed the GISS composition simulations, L.N. and R.R. performed the GISS RTM calculations, K.B. facilitated use of the TES data, J-F.L. performed the NCAR simulations, A.V., G.A.S., O.P. and D.S. contributed to developing and evaluation the GISS composition model, D.S. conceived and led the study, and all authors contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Drew Shindell.

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