While it is a mistake to conflate the Ozone Hole with Global Climate Change (global warming), this article examines and clarifies the relationship between the two.

The record-breaking Arctic ozone “hole” and global warming

by Andrew Freedman

Ozone Holes Left – the Arctic ozone hole, which emerged in mid-March. Right – the Antarctic ozone hole from September 26. (NASA)

For years, polls have shown that many Americans have conflated two distinct atmospheric calamities – the destruction of the planet’s stratospheric ozone layer, and global warming. A 2010 poll by Yale University found that 21 percent of respondents believe the greenhouse effect refers to the ozone layer, rather than to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, such as carbon dioxide.

Now comes a study that helps describe the possible relationship between the two in a way that will either confuse even more people, or clarify things for anyone who devotes some time to fully digesting the new information.

According to research published in the journal Nature this week, the largest ozone “hole” on record above the Arctic opened up last winter, exposing residents of the Far North to high doses of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts. The area of severe ozone loss extended southward from the Arctic to cover populated areas in northern Russia, Greenland and Norway.

At first glance, you might not find much to be out of the ordinary about that piece of news, since the ozone hole has been in our science textbooks for decades now. But note that I said, “Arctic,” and not “Antarctic.”

Although ozone depletion has occurred above both poles, the large and iconic ozone hole has been most acute in the Southern Hemisphere, where ideal atmospheric conditions for ozone destruction, namely extremely cold temperatures in the stratosphere, tend to exist for longer stretches of time than they do in the Arctic.

Stratospheric ozone is destroyed when atmospheric chlorine from manmade chemicals break down naturally occurring ozone molecules. The chemical reactions that accomplish this molecular homicide require extremely cold temperatures in order to take place. In a sense, you can think of the cold temperatures as an accessory to murder, if you’re like me and best understand chemistry through the prism of a Law and Order episode.

The scientific discovery that industrial chemicals were causing the loss of the ozone layer led to the enactment of the Montreal Protocol in 1989, through which countries have reduced their use of ozone-destroying chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). But the long atmospheric lifetime of those ozone-killing compounds has meant that the ozone layer is going through a lengthy healing process, with continued annual occurrences of large areas of ozone loss.

Still, the observation of an Arctic ozone hole – which, while smaller than the Antarctic ozone hole, was comparable to it in terms of the amount of ozone lost – is surprising, and demonstrates that human actions can have unforeseen ripple effects for many years.

In the Arctic, the stratosphere – which is the layer of atmosphere above the troposphere, where most weather occurs – tends to be too mild for ozone depletion to progress to the same extent that it does during the Antarctic winter.

However, something odd happened during the winter of 2010-2011, according to the new study. The period of extreme cold in the upper atmosphere lasted more than a month longer than during any previously studied Arctic winter. The key reason for this was an unusually strong polar vortex, which is a cyclonic circulation of air in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Typically, the polar vortex is weaker in the Arctic than it is in the Antarctic.

“What was different about this year was that the temperatures were low enough to generate ozone-depleting forms of chlorine for a much longer period of time,” said study coauthor and University of Toronto physicist Kaley Walker in a press release.

Although the precise causes of the unusually cold stratosphere and extreme ozone depletion last winter are unclear, global warming is one factor that may be involved.

Strtospheric Termperatures

Global sratospheric temperatures relative to average over the last three decades (NOAA)

At first that might seem to be counterintuitive – as the lower atmosphere warms in response to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air, the upper atmosphere cools – it’s actually rather straightforward. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap more outgoing infrared radiation in the lower atmosphere, so less heat is allowed to pass back into the stratosphere, and the upper atmosphere cools relative to the lower levels.

“Day-to-day temperatures in the 2010-11 Arctic winter did not reach lower values than in previous cold Arctic winters,” said lead author Gloria Manney of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The difference from previous winters is that temperatures were low enough to produce ozone-destroying forms of chlorine for a much longer time. This implies that if winter Arctic stratospheric temperatures drop just slightly in the future, for example as a result of climate change, then severe Arctic ozone loss may occur more frequently.”

The relationship between global warming in the lower atmosphere and ozone loss in the upper atmosphere is yet another reason why we need to take a precautionary approach to dealing with manmade climate change. In this case, a growing problem (global warming) may be worsening another, preexisting manmade condition (ozone loss).

For people who have long mixed up the ozone issue with climate change, perhaps learning about this relationship will help. Then again, maybe it won’t. Either way, I’m reminded of a joke by the comedian Lewis Black, who expressed his frustrations about the ozone layer thusly.

“It’s ridiculous that we still have a hole in the ozone layer. We have men, we have rockets, we have Saran Wrap – FIX IT!! And don’t come back until you do,” Black said.

If only it were that easy…

Original post on the Washington Post

46 Responses to “Global Climate Change & The Ozone Hole”

  1. norns jes says:

    morons that want to tax the companies to death do not have the sense to know that it employees.
    owners can not afford to give raises,pay for obamacare,(unions got excluded in that onethey own obastard),and they can not hire new employees untill obastard is out of office,because he is bad for America.bad for busenesses,and bad for the future children who will probably grow up in another,larger version of Greece.
    blind jerks.

  2. wartianitz says:

    Do you make this comment on every cheezburger vid? cos one helluva lot of them, & nearly all got mis-spelled words on the title. better get going 🙂

  3. I agree in with you. In my opinion i think this album has two meanings… the way of all flesh refers to the way people fear and attempt to evade a natural process for so long as in death and this sight to behold is us exhausting the planet but thats all of the avoiding death in nature humans wouldnt live long enough to over-populate… welfare riders are the parasites breeding… “taking, not giving back” consuming without producing anything but more populous

  4. Awesome video. Canadian officials are a bunch of sell-outs in bed with the bankers, mainstream media and police. Thanks for telling it like it is.

  5. mak huckwok says:

    Marlborough Express

    UV Index replaced by New Zealand Doctor Online
    The release today of a new tool that makes it easier to know when to stay out of the sun coincides with news the Antarctic ozone hole is one of the largest recorded. A geographically specific Sun Protection for when to hit the shade or cover up …
    Cancer fear rises as ozone hole grows Stuff.co.nz
    Ninth largest hole in ozone layer The Times (blog)
    all 9 news articles »

  6. oben danton says:

    Climate Change and with it Global Warming is happening … it’s not a question of (wo)man made or natural … adapt if you can …

  7. A) Ice melting dose not increase water levels B) look up “MCA” or Medieval Warming Period, and more the “LIA” or little ice age that followed the MCA. the has gone 90% of its existence without icecaps at all. The was not flooded then nor will it be if they completely melt. the has done this before in the last 900 years of recorded history. CO2 has yet to be “PROVEN” a cause of this warm period.

  8. from 1990 to 2011 has our ozone hole grown? So climite change, there is a significant reason for concern

  9. Global warming – ← Older revision Revision as of 13:42, 21 December 2011 Line 4: Line 4: [[Liberal]] claims of … –

  10. pach stell says:

    STILL raining in WV! and feckin’ cold. Last winter kicked our butts, spring rains lasted till July 1 (That was the soonest we could get the garden in – too muddy) Summer lasted 1 month – July, ZERO rain in July, garden burned up, thought we would have a longer lasting Summer, nope…more rain & now too cold for this time of year. End Weather Rant. Thanks, Peace

  11. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists have found that carbon is stored in the soils and sediments of the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin for a surprisingly long time, making it likely that…


  12. Stephen Harper’s administration is cutting budgets for climate, conservation and ozone monitoring projects Canada’s Stephen Harper government is spending more than 60 billion dollars on new military jets and warships while slashing more than 200 million dollars in funding for research and monitoring of the environment. Amongst the programmes now crippled is Canada’s internationally renowned ozone monitoring network, which was instrumental in the discovery of the first-ever ozone hole over Canada last spring. Loss of ozone has been previously linked to increases in skin cancer. “The proposed cuts go so far the network won’t be able to do serious science,” said Thomas Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. Canada was the pioneer in ozone monitoring, developing the first accurate ozone measuring tool that led to the discovery that the world’s ozone layer was dangerously thinning in the 1970s, which in turn led to the successful Montreal Protocol on Ozone…

  13. sallici edina says:

    I suggest you address your query to Lord Monckton He does not hide behind a pseudonym and is contactable. I’ve met him and heard him speak, sadly I believe he is pretty much correct regarding mans carbon emissions on climate. I have experience in the use of C02 to increase plant growth and know considerably more is good and it would resolve many issues without harming thee or me.You dismissed the video without watching as likewise the Salby without reading it or knowing who he is.

  14. People stop being stupid! Global warming is as real as Santa Claus, there is no such thing. This is just a scam for more government regulations. Google: Hegelian Principle, and be prepared to learn something you will not find in any university. No need to thank me, and sorry for calling you guys stupid but I needed your attention.

  15. imbesselwi says:

    Relatively cheap, simple steps using existing technologies could cut projected global warming by one degree Fahrenheit – a substantial amount — by focusing on sources of methane and soot, concludes a new study by an international team of scientists.

  16. canee boner says:

    follow us on twitter and join our movement. We are working to do our by balancing global warming through our international project and mandate. 5x the seize of Texas is the secret formula in balancing global warming. Please please ask us about the awnser! Calling on those who want to make a difference.

  17. burandriah saul says:

    Guide to the Environment: Do you think that the Ozone Hole is a grunge rock club? Or that the Food Web i…

  18. contd.
    The fact that people disagree with me is irrelevent unless they can demonstate how values are objective. No one as of yet has because values come from our own mind, not inherent in the objects or concepts we value (or value)

  19. Comment on Global warming Proved False by MET Office by Tomcat: Although I am dubious about the effects of globa…

  20. kreschrisk passelvine says:

    yeah but who will regulate the pollution coming from MOUTH?

    btw, now seen the result of mr “brilliant” clean energy schemes: Billions of dollars of taxpayer money no results, no jobs, plenty of bureaucratic incompetency

  21. More signs of a warming planet, from news Google:
    New USDA map puts Palm Beach County in warmer zone for plants.
    (Please read it before the denier with all the sock puppets accounts censors it)

  22. Let’s suppose that the Arctic to degas methane 100 times faster than it is today. I just made that number up trying to come up with a blow-the-doors-off surprise, something like the ozone hole. We ran the numbers to get an idea of how the climate impact of an Arctic Methane Nasty Surprise would […]

  23. is it really going to go into the 50°s today, as global climate change may be, it sure feels pleasant… –

  24. “I don’t buy into this ‘climate science’ of man made global warming.” You go Rick, don’t buy into science.

  25. sugailberv whelwa says:

    Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have said that the ozone hole over the Arctic has been largely caused by cold temperatures in the stratosphere – and could recur.

  26. sehisiano couvelicel says:

    Nonetheless…global warming or end of the world…today..when it’s 82 degrees & beautiful outside…I will be on the Links golfing it up.

  27. Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Broken!! Risk of Global Climate Change By BP Oil Spill ! — Signs of the Times News –

  28. mullingtho sha says:

    SPEX is being designed to perform highly accurate measurements of the intensity and polarization of light being reflected by the atmosphere and surface. The SPEX instrument has been proposed to perform climate relevant measurements from the International Space Station (ISS)

  29. bodermiel says:

    io ho incontrato un discreto numero di americani che credeva a una qualche forma di gombloddo, di solito versioni meno complicate di queste da zoo, ma di scettici ce n’e` a iosa. E` anche ragionevole, fosse successo in italia saresti stato *sicuro* del gombloddo, da noi non c’e` stata una strage senza almeno un tentativo di depistaggio, per non voler sospettare di peggio.

  30. Science Friday: From 3-4pm ET only – special deals on archive editions of – 1991 bcast on ozone hole, 1993 show on new-fangled ‘internet’ and MORE! –

  31. As it should be. Go ozone hole, go! *ANY* snow would be nice right now. it’s 50 degrees out!

  32. bee maizukijir says:

    posted by: Watching the Wheels Amplify’d from postyours.slinkset.com Basic Must ReadsCrazy Weather and Odd HappeningsThe End Times/ 2012 WatchWars and Conflicts/Terror YouTube – Everett Fissure 03-26-2011 – FIRST HAND from youtube subscriber! (www.youtube.com) Radiation from Japan has been detected in Alabama | Alabama’s 13 (www2.alabamas13.com) Developing ozone hole approaches Scandinavia and Eastern Europe right now (thewatchers.adorraeli.com) Dead whale washes ashore in Sandbridge | wavy.com (www.wavy.com) The CIA’s Libya Rebels: The Same Terrorists who Killed US, NATO Troops in Iraq (www.globalresearch.ca) The Fallout Thread (tinfoilpalace.eamped.com) Do Obama & Hillary know they are al-Qaida in Libya? – Review-Journal eForum (eforum.reviewjournal.com) Quake Jolts Thailand, Officials Warn of Aftershocks — NTDTV.com (english.ntdtv.com) YouTube – 110311_TUNAMI.avi (www.youtube.com) AFP: Israel deploys ‘Iron Dome’ anti-rocket system (www.google.com) Radiation in…

  33. lumert fortz says:

    Either you accept the evidence for evolution, global climate change, etc, or you deny it. This is science, there is no “belief” involved.

  34. Quote from: ECA on Today at 03:21:04 AM
    BACK in the time when AIR pollution was POLLUTION…not carbon

    If carbon is not pollution, might I suggest that you stand behind your running car inhaling the exhaust? Cars a…

  35. °29/11/2010 Guardian Climate change scientists warn of 4C global temperature rise.Drought and would be widespread in a 4C world, according to scientists.  The hellish vision of a world warmed by 4C within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the glacial progress of the global climate change […]

  36. staphermon west says:

    The Ozone layer is a protective shield to prevent harmful radiation from entering the atmosphere. The “Ozone hole” allows the radiation in.

  37. vich salield says:

    So the U.S. just felt its warmest period in history in addition to wildfires, drought & violent storms….global climate change anyone?

  38. mohayer bara says:

    Marriage equality, like global warming, is not a “debate.” You can’t have a “debate” if there’s only one accurate, valid position.

  39. krywaterra hopp says:

    Filed under: Etc., Ethanol On November 26th, explorers from the Moon-Regan Transantarctic Expedition team left Union Glacier, Antarctica. Their mission: to examine the impact of global climate change and to traverse Antarctica in a biofuel-powered vehicle faster than anyone else has done before. So far, their journey has been a success and, with the team’s Lotus-designed Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle (BIV) reaching the South Pole intact, the team is over half-way through the 3,600-mile jaunt. The BIV, powered by an E85-burning turbo’d four-cylinder Rotax 914 engine that cranks out 100 horsepower and 106 pound feet of torque, is built to withstand the rigors of traversing Antarctica. So far, the BIV has suffered no major problems and has without flaw even when temperatures have dipped well below -23 degrees Fahrenheit. The BIV’s three-blade propeller, sub-1,600 pound weight and snowmobile-like runners allow it to skid across the icy tundra at speeds of up to 84 miles per hour. Even…

  40. The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is affecting weather patterns across the entire Southern Hemisphere, according to a new scientific study.

  41. they’re getting louder…it must be serious as not “blue sky thinking” but ” we must attack the ozone hole permeating the system”

  42. castley trami says:

    Actually, the ozone hole does not cause global warming – it lets in UV rays, but not heat! More info here:

  43. Carbon Credit Business
    Top Secret Carbon Credit Brokering Program That Teaches Individuals How To Profit From The Carbon Credit And Global Warming Craze. Product Has Little Competition And Is In High Demand. Lots Of Satisfied Customers.

  44. agostettge says:

    Ozone loss over the Arctic this year was so severe that for the first time it could be called an “ozone hole” like the Antarctic one, scientists

  45. cruyn baramilabo says:

    Get long range historical and current radar. US only. Compare the weather in San Francisco to New York. Great for vacation planning! View past forecasts to see how well they match what actually happened. See if global warming is happening. Check out the monsoon in Mumbai. The rainclouds are so strong that the temperature ac …
    Lakeshia Gallow liked Beautiful Weather Graphs and Maps – WeatherSpark on 21 August 2012 (5 months ago).

  46. leon kawah says:

    Chicken never gave oxygen, chicken never gave shade, loss of chicken never caused global warming. Try chicken, go gre …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *