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High solar cycle spectral variations inconsistent with stratospheric ozone observations

Abstract

Solar variability can influence surface climate, for example by affecting the mid-to-high-latitude surface pressure gradient associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation1. One key mechanism behind such an influence is the absorption of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation by ozone in the tropical stratosphere, a process that modifies temperature and wind patterns and hence wave propagation and atmospheric circulation2,3,4,5. The amplitude of UV variability is uncertain, yet it directly affects the magnitude of the climate response6: observations from the SOlar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite7 show broadband changes up to three times larger than previous measurements8,9. Here we present estimates of the stratospheric ozone variability during the solar cycle. Specifically, we estimate the photolytic response of stratospheric ozone to changes in spectral solar irradiance by calculating the difference between a reference chemistry–climate model simulation of ozone variability driven only by transport (with no changes in solar irradiance) and observations of ozone concentrations. Subtracting the reference from simulations with time-varying irradiance, we can evaluate different data sets of measured and modelled spectral irradiance. We find that at altitudes above pressure levels of 5 hPa, the ozone response to solar variability simulated using the SORCE spectral solar irradiance data are inconsistent with the observations.

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Figure 1: Illustration of photolytic solar cycle ozone response.
Figure 2: Solar irradiance and ozone time series.
Figure 3: Ozone response from multi-linear regression between 1991 and 2012.
Figure 4: Solar cycle maximum-to-minimum ozone response from linear fitting.

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Acknowledgements

W.T.B. was funded by the SNSF projects 149182 (SILA) and 163206 (SIMA). We thank A. Stenke and A. Coulon for their advice, comments and help with the model nudging. We thank M. Snow for his comments on SORCE/SOLSTICE. We thank the GOZCARDS, SWOOSH and SBUV teams for their ozone products. E.V.R. was partially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation under grant agreement CRSII2-147659 (FUPSOL II). T.S. was funded by SNSF project 153302.

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Contributions

W.T.B. prepared the solar data, performed the model experiments, carried out the linear analysis and interpretation of results. W.T.B. and J.D.H. wrote the paper. W.T.B., T.S. and E.V.R. designed and set up the model simulations, F.T. provided the ozone data sets and advice on their use, A.V.S. prepared the CCM model nudging and A.K. performed the MLR analysis. J.D.H., E.V.R. and W.S. provided expert advice and discussion on the results.

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Correspondence to W. T. Ball.

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Ball, W., Haigh, J., Rozanov, E. et al. High solar cycle spectral variations inconsistent with stratospheric ozone observations. Nature Geosci 9, 206–209 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2640

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