Hydroclimatology and Solar Explorations

Ozone in the Atmosphere

Solar Cycles Drive the Ozone Layer

It’s no secret that solar radiation continuously produces ozone from oxygen molecules, all of the time, wherever the Earth happens to be exposed.  So it shouldn’t be a secret that a time series of the total ozone (TOZ) over several decades of satellite measurement would closely correspond to the Sunspot record (SSN).  The featured image from [1] corroborates.  The gray lines are the SSN record and the darker lines are the TOZ record.  The left image is for the full Earth.  The central image is for the Northern Hemisphere and the right image is for the Southern Hemisphere.

This resource has been around for nearly a decade and it cites interesting prior art from decades earlier.  I find much about this paper is helpful in my emerging understanding of ozone circulation and formation from solar effects and lightning.  No lightning or CFCs in this paper, but an admirable limited focus on some big picture connections between solar cycles and ozone observations.  This appears evident not only in the full atmosphere sense but also with a keen eye on the intricate circulation challenges posed by the so-called Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO).  I see that they identified the strongest SSN correlations with the westerly phase of the QBO.  That’s interesting but the QBO really merits its own posts.

This is only a blog

Ozone scientists press a narrative that unless CFCs and other greenhouse gases are eliminated, then the Ozone Hole, rooted over Antarctica will grow unimpeded until it swallows the entire planet.

Those scientists have secured our belief and support, through nothing more than a simple plot which compared human-developed CFC trends to the size of the ozone hole.  Who said correlation wasn’t causation?  The work won not only a Nobel Prize but also an international response via the Montreal Protocol.

But the ozone hole record has been held out to us more as a shiny object than as an important yet mundane data set to be thoroughly understood in relation to what it is most sensitive to.  If the ozone scientists can cite correlation, then may I as well?  Here I go:  Sunspot numbers have been trending down*.  And (the ozone scientists have assured us that) the ozone hole is trending down.  Accordingly more sunspot numbers, more ozone, and fewer sunspots, less ozone.

I’m only making an example of course but it seems at least as plausible as the CFC notion.  In any case this paper shows that solar cycles can account for total ozone.  In the global full atmosphere picture, the correlation between SSNs and total ozone demonstrated by the featured image really is compelling.   It’s also not a secret, even though it is not widely shared.

[1] Efstathiou, M.N. and Varotsos, C.A., 2013. On the 11 year solar cycle signature in global total ozone dynamics.  Meteorological Applications  20.  72-79

* noting that the featured image is de-trended, which is a shame.

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