New research has found that the effects of ozone depletion exacerbate the process of climate change, leading to a ‘feedback loop’ of global heating.
In a review article published in the Nature Sustainability journal, members of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Environmental Effects Assessment Panel detailed their findings, which showed that damaged portions of the ozone layer are penetrated by higher levels of solar radiation which then exacerbates the warming of air currents and oceans. Solar rays passing through the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica have caused a significant shift to the South of the Antarctic Oscillation, a wind current circling the Southern Hemisphere; which has directly contributed to climate change in the region.
Kevin Rose, a researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who serves on the panel and is a co-author of the review article, said: “What we’re seeing is that ozone changes have shifted temperature and precipitation patterns in the southern hemisphere, and that’s altering where the algae in the ocean are, which is altering where the fish are and where the walruses and seals are; so we’re seeing many changes in the food web. Greenhouse gas emissions trap more heat in the lower atmosphere which leads to a cooling of the upper atmosphere. Those colder temperatures in the upper atmosphere are slowing the recovery of the ozone layer.”
The assessment panel informs signatories to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which committed participants to mitigate the effects of ozone depletion by phasing out their use of substances which actively harm the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants. The protocol has been considered effective, with reports in 2018 that the depleted ozone layer was beginning to heal itself; however, new emissions of ozone depleting substances have been detected originating in East Asia earlier this year.