Climatology: Strong winds affect the ozone layer

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Climatology: Strong winds affect the ozone layer
Climatology: Strong winds affect the ozone layer

High winds affect the ozone layer

Very strong winds in the stable Arctic polar vortex accumulate nitrogen oxides (NEx) in the upper sections of the stratosphere and thus promote the depletion of the ozone present there. Should these air currents occur more frequently in the future, this could further cool the stratosphere.

This mechanism was observed by Cora Randall from the University of Colorado in Boulder and her colleagues in February 2006, when the second highest nitrogen oxide concentrations ever measured occurred in the upper layers of the stratosphere over the Arctic and thus almost two thirds of the existing ozone - Molecules (O3) split. Strong air currents allowed larger amounts of oxygen and nitrogen to sink from the mesosphere to the upper limit of the stratosphere, where they were broken down by the radiation and subsequently formed as NOx - primarily as nitric oxide (NO). or nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – newly formed. These connections in turn react with the O3 and use it up in the process. Only in the winter of 2003/04 did more nitrogen oxides form here, when severe solar storms hit the earth's atmosphere and triggered the respective reactions.

Since ozone absorbs the incoming UV radiation and thus heats up the stratosphere, the destructive nitrogen oxides regulate the temperature at these altitudes: the less ozone there is, the more the airspace cools. Meanwhile, climate models predict increased air currents in the upper stratosphere, so such ozone depletion could soon accumulate and intensify. However, these processes take place above the actual ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful UV radiation. The researchers therefore do not expect any direct he alth consequences for humans from O3 degradation.

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