I feel that there is a need for more candid explorations of the true drivers behind ozone hole expansions and contractions.   Earlier in 2017 I wrote an introductory essay about the ozone layer which is the foundation for this subsequent post.  In that introduction I included an animation from the European Space Agency [1,3] which was highly suggestive of conformance with natural geostrophic circulation patterns for the so called ozone hole over the Antarctic.

I noted a scientific source from 2006 [2] which appeared to not attribute ozone layer distributions and patterns to anthropogenic CFC emissions.   I cited that to support my advancement of the notion that naturally occurring inorganic chloride from the oceans, swept up into the atmosphere, account for the lions’ share of ozone depletion.  Relatively high concentrations of natural chloride ions wafted upwards from the oceans, floating in the upper atmosphere have been widely recognized for decades [3].  Moreover, they are an important clue to continental recharge of moisture and their distributions have been mapped accordingly.

Since that post I’ve continued to compile ozone literature and have begun a short comparison of the ESA ozone hole to my own QG geopotential height and streamline contours over the Antarctic.  The featured animation for this post compares the ozone hole and the QG circulation patterns for the Austral Spring of 1992 and 2004.  The patterns are both consistent with a “horizontal” oblong pattern for the 1992 year and a more “vertical” oblong pattern for the year 2004.  Can there be any question that the two patterns are not related?

Yes there can, as I have only pulled two months from two years.  But the prospect that QG circulation continually vents vast quantities of chlorides from the Southern Ocean into the upper atmosphere where those halides can transform into free radicals, and thereby catalyze the destruction of ozone, seems intriguing.  Moreover, current literature continues to support that “molecular chlorine exerts a significant effect on the atmospheric chemistry of the Arctic”. [5] The same likely applies to the Antarctic, if not more so.   Therefore, I continue to nourish a concern that the ozone patterns in our atmosphere are purely natural.

For example, if a spinning annular ocean pattern such as the Southern Ocean, could entrain halides into the upper atmosphere, where ozone is then depleted, would not something similar hold for spinning ocean gyres, such as the major western equatorial Pacfic gyres?  I’ve found this image of an ozone pattern which appears to precisely fit that bill [6].  The deep blue and magenta closed contours appear to be closely associated with the two gyres that bracket the equatorial easterlies along the western Pacific, if I’m not mistaken.  For that matter, the simple fact of rapid and high volume convection over the western Pacific equatorial region is an additional likely driver.  I’m motivated to study ozone patterns in this area in the future for that reason.



My adopted geostrophic views of atmospheric circulation can be compared in many ways to the more three dimensional Hadley and Brewer – Dobson styled patterns.  As I work to ensure that the two approaches have consistency in context, I find concerns, not so much with the scientific ozone circulation literature but rather with popular assertions of the so called ozone hole.

For example, I never would have inferred from popular literature that ozone concentrations are actually higher around the poles than they are in the middle latitudes, where the majority of the planet’s human population resides.  But this appears to be the case, and has been at least since the first half of the 20th century when Dobson and Brewer developed their formulations of stratospheric circulation patterns in close alignment with the Hadley circulation.   In fact, the origins of the Brewer-Dobson circulation are grounded in this polar ozone concentration observation.

In response to the disparity between arcane scientific papers and popular representations by the same scientists and policy guiding institutions, one would like to know for certain:

Does upper atmospheric ozone disappear around the poles or does it concentrate?

In my view at this point, it appears to do both.  It concentrates around the poles via Brewer – Dobson circulation, and that concentration is depleted via catalysis from upwelling marine halide aerosols and other natural airborne species.  The southern hemisphere is the poster child for this annual spectacle given the unbroken annular Southern Ocean with its vast source of marine aerosols.

There are multiple additional aspects to the generation, circulation and extinction of ozone in the upper atmosphere, but CFCs don’t appear to merit the attention they receive even in comparison to those aspects I have left out so far.  Ozone researchers carefully parse the jargon and application of “ozone hole” science.  Accordingly a layperson, not to mention many other scientists in different fields, might never get a hint that anthropogenic CFCs are non-players in the evolution of the atmospheric ozone patterns.

This is a work in progress and an opinion piece.

[1] European Space Agency

[2] WMO Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project Report No. 49 An Overview of the 2005 Antarctic Ozone Hole Prepared by Geir O. Braathen WMO TD No. 1312 WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION

[3] See for example Figure 2-1-1, Graedel, T.E., D.T. Hawkins, and L.D. Claxton, 1986 ATMOSPHERIC CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS, Sources, Occurrence, and Bioassay      Academic Press


[5] Liao, J., L.G. Huey, Z Liu, D.J. Tanner, C.A. Cantrell, J. J. Orlando, F.M. Flocke, P. B. Shepson, A. J. Weinheimer, S.R. Hall, K. Ullmann, H.J. Beine, Y. Wang, E.D. Ingall, C.R. Stephens, R.S. Hornbrook, E.C. Apel, D. Riemer, A. Fried, R.L. Mauldin III, J.N. Smith, R.M. Staebler, J.A. Neuman and J.B. Nowak. 2014. “High levels of molecular chlorine in the Arctic atmosphere”.  Nature Geoscience 7 91-34

[6] from