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Strong Winds In Upper Stratosphere Trigger Increase In Ozone-Destroying Gases

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  • Pat Neuman
    Strong Winds In Upper Stratosphere Trigger Increase In Ozone- Destroying Gases The upper stratosphere lies several kilometers [miles] higher than the ozone
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2006
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      Strong Winds In Upper Stratosphere Trigger Increase In Ozone-
      Destroying Gases

      The upper stratosphere lies several kilometers [miles] higher than
      the ozone hole of the lower stratosphere, which is caused by man-
      made gases, including chlorine and bromine, which gobble up ozone
      molecules.
      by Staff Writers
      Boulder CO (SPX) Oct 02, 2006
      Winds circling high above the Arctic have a much greater impact on
      upper stratospheric ozone levels than scientists had previously
      thought, according to a new report. In March 2006, the winds allowed
      near-record amounts of ozone- destroying gases, collectively known
      as nitrogen oxides or Nox, to descend some 50 kilometers [30 miles]
      from the mesosphere to the top of Earth's stratosphere.
      Nox, is a generic term for a group of highly reactive gases, all of
      which contain nitrogen and oxygen in varying amounts, especially
      nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. Because Nox destroys ozone, which
      heats up the stratosphere by absorbing ultraviolet radiation, the
      naturally occurring gases could trigger atmospheric changes that
      could have unanticipated climate consequences, according to Cora
      Randall of the University of Colorado at Boulder, lead author of the
      study.

      In February 2006, winds in the polar upper stratospheric vortex, a
      massive winter low-pressure system that confines air over the Arctic
      region, sped up to rival the strongest such winds on record, said
      Randall. The only time more nitrogen oxides were observed in the
      upper stratosphere was in the winter of 2003-2004, when huge solar
      storms bombarded the region with energetic particles, triggering up
      to a 60 percent reduction in ozone molecules, said Randall.

      "We knew strong winds would lead to more Nox in the stratosphere if
      there were solar storms, but seeing that much Nox come down into the
      stratosphere when the Sun was essentially quiet was amazing,”
      Randall said. Her paper on the subject was published 27 September in
      Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical
      Union. Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario,
      Canada, and the University of Michigan, as well as the University of
      Colorado participated in the study.

      The upper stratosphere lies several kilometers [miles] higher than
      the ozone hole of the lower stratosphere, which is caused by man-
      made gases, including chlorine and bromine, which gobble up ozone
      molecules. Because there is significantly less ozone in the upper
      stratosphere, the ozone-destroying nitrogen oxide gases are unlikely
      to cause immediate health threats, such as increases in skin cancer,
      Randall said.

      The destructive Nox gases, created above the stratosphere when
      sunlight or energetic particles break apart oxygen and nitrogen
      molecules, appear to be important players in controlling the
      temperature of Earth's middle atmosphere, according to Randall. "If
      human-induced climate change leads to changes in the strength of the
      polar vortex, which is what scientists predict, we'll likely see
      changes in the amount of Nox descending into the stratosphere,”
      she said. "If that happens, more stratospheric Nox might become the
      rule rather than the exception."

      "The atmosphere is part of a coupled system, and what affects one
      layer of the atmosphere can influence other layers in surprising
      ways," Randall said. "We will only be able to predict and understand
      the consequences of human activities if we study the entire system
      as a whole, and not just in parts."

      The 2006 increases of Nox in the upper stratosphere occurred over
      the Arctic and the northern areas of North America and Europe,
      according to the paper's authors. The research team used data from
      Canadian and United States satellites, including the Canadian
      Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment.

      Cora E. Randall: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics,
      University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA; also at Department
      of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado,
      Boulder, Colorado, USA; Citation: Randall, C. E., V. L. Harvey, C.
      S. Singleton, P. F. Bernath, C. D. Boone, and J. U. Kozyra (2006),
      Enhanced Nox in 2006 linked to strong upper stratospheric Arctic
      vortex, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L18811, doi:10.1029/2006GL027160.
      Related Links
      Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
      All about the Ozone Layer



      OZONE NEWS
      Antarctic Ozone Hole Close To 2000 And 2003 Records
      Geneva (AFP) Sep 22, 2006
      The seasonal ozone hole over Antarctica is reaching a record size
      previously seen in 2000 and 2003, the World Meteorological
      Organisation said Friday. "Our latest bulletin shows that the hole
      in the ozone layer over the Antarctic has beaten that of last year
      and is rivalling the two largest on record -- 2000 was the largest
      and 2003 was the second largest," said WMO spokesman Mark Oliver.



      http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Strong_Winds_In_Upper_Stratosphere_
      Trigger_Increase_In_Ozone_Destroying_Gases_999.html
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