The new research suggests that shifting wind patterns caused by the ozone hole push clouds farther toward
the South Pole, reducing the amount of radiation the clouds reflect and possibly causing a bit of warming
rather than cooling.
A map of ozone concentrations in the Southern Hemisphere shows thinning of the ozone layer
over the South Pole. This region of reduced ozone, which is called the “ozone hole,” causes changes in
wind patterns and cloud cover. Image credit: NASA
Each ozone molecule consists of three oxygen atoms bound together. These ozone molecules gather in the
lower portion of the stratosphere about 20 to 30 kilometers (12 to 19 miles) above the ground -- about
twice as high as commercial airliners fly.
However, for the living things below, this layer of ozone shields Earth from some of the hazardous
ultraviolet radiation that can cause sunburns, eye damage and even skin cancer.
The cause of this "hole" turned out to be chlorofluorocarbons, such as Freon, from cooling systems, aerosols
cans and degreasing solvents, which break apart ozone molecules. Even though the1987 Montreal Protocol banned these
chlorofluorocarbons worldwide, the ozone hole persists decades later.
In a 2010 Yale University poll, 61 percent of those surveyed believed the ozone hole significantly contributed
to global warming. Additionally, 43 percent agreed with the statement "if we stopped punching holes in the ozone
layer with rockets, it would reduce global warming."
An actual consequence of the ozone hole is its odd effect on the Southern Hemisphere polar jet stream, the fast
flowing air currents encircling the South Pole.
Despite the ozone hole only appearing during the spring months, throughout each subsequent summer the high-speed
jet stream swings south toward the pole.
"For some reason when you put an ozone hole in the Southern Hemisphere during springtime, you get this
robust poleward shift in the jet stream during the following summer season," said Grise.
"People have been looking at this for 10 years and there's still no real answer of why this happens."
Scientists wondered if the ozone hole's impacts on the jet stream would have any indirect effects on the
cloud cover. Using computer models, they worked out how the clouds would react to changing winds.
"Because the jet stream shifts, the storm systems move along with it toward the pole," said Grise.
"If the storm systems move, the cloud system is going to move with it."
The team discovered that high- and mid-level clouds traveled with the shifting jet stream toward the South Pole
and the Antarctic continent.
Low-level cloud coverage dropped in their models throughout the Southern Ocean.
Modeling clouds is a difficult task for scientists but finally their theory of migrating cloud coverage is
supported by observational evidence from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project, a decades-long NASA effort
to map global cloud distributions.
Additionally, this small warming effect may be important for climatologists trying to predict the future of
Southern Hemisphere climate.
Latest Spectacular Solar Flare Will Hit STEREO-B Spacecraft, Spitzer And Curiosity
The Sun continues to show its more violent side.
A spectacular solar flare erupted from the Sun's northeastern limb yesterday, sending an beautiful arcing jet of super-heated plasma blasting off into space.
The explosion, captured by Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory at about 5.45pm yesterday evening, was one of the most beautiful seen in years.
Europe's Future Climate Will Bring Violent Winter Storms
The climate in Europe can change dramatically very soon.
According to a new study Europeans can expect more violent winter storms in the future.
A weakening of the warm North Atlantic ocean current, the Meridional Overturning Circulation, during the
next century has already been predicted by climate scientists, with suggestions it could lead to colder sea temperatures and reduced warming in Britain.
Dangerous Fast and Furious - Birth Of Africa's New Ocean - with video
The only places where mid-ocean ridges appear above sea level are Ethiopia and Iceland.
Two new studies into the so-called “plumbing systems” that lie under volcanoes could bring scientists closer to predicting large
eruptions and reveal new information about where magma is stored and how it moves through the geological plumbing network.
New Evidence Links Earth's Extreme Weather
To Human-Caused Global Warming
From the many single events a pattern emerges. At least for extreme rainfall and heat waves the link with human-caused
global warming is clear, the scientists show in a new analysis of scientific evidence in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Less clear is the link between warming and storms, despite the observed increase in the intensity of hurricanes.