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Healing of ozone hole could accelerate global warming

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January 26, 2010

Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) image of the largest ozone hole ever observed in S...

Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) image of the largest ozone hole ever observed in September 2006 (left) and the ozone layer as it appeared in December 2009

You'd think the healing of the hole in the ozone layer would be good news, but it seems that although every cloud is said to have a silver lining, they also have a gray one as well. The Antarctic ozone hole was once regarded as one of the biggest environmental threats, but researchers now argue that the ozone hole over Antarctica helped to shield this region from carbon-induced warming over the past two decades and its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere.

According to scientists at the University of Leeds, high speed winds beneath the Antarctic ozone hole whip up large amounts of sea spray, which contains millions of tiny salt particles. This spray then forms droplets and eventually clouds, and the increased spray over the last two decades has made these clouds brighter and more reflective, to reflect more of the sun’s powerful rays back into space.

As the ozone layer recovers it is believed that this feedback mechanism could decline in effectiveness, or even be reversed, leading to accelerated warming in the southern hemisphere.

"These clouds have acted like a mirror to the sun's rays, reflecting the sun's heat away from the surface to the extent that warming from rising carbon emissions has effectively been canceled out in this region during the summertime," said Professor Ken Carslaw of the University of Leeds who co-authored the research.

"If, as seems likely, these winds die down, rising CO2 emissions could then cause the warming of the southern hemisphere to accelerate, which would have an impact on future climate predictions," he added.

The key to this newly-discovered feedback is aerosol - tiny reflective particles suspended within the air that are known by experts to have a huge impact on climate.

Greenhouses gases absorb infrared radiation from the Earth and release it back into the atmosphere as heat, causing the planet to warm up over time. Aerosol works against this by reflecting heat from the sun back into space, cooling the planet as it does so.

The University of Leeds team made their prediction using a state-of-the-art global model of aerosols and two decades of meteorological data.

"Our research highlights the value of today's state-of- the-art models and long-term datasets that enable such unexpected and complex climate feedbacks to be detected and accounted for in our future predictions," added Professor Carslaw.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
5 Comments

More global warming stuff? How long does this fraud go on?

TheRogue1000
27th January, 2010 @ 05:39 am PST

I agree, Rogue. Since Climategate revealed that the original data has been destroyed and nothing remains but cooked books (not a product of global warming), there is no credibility in this junk science. Carbon Dioxide is only .04% of the air and it is heavy so it stays down to feed plants. Want proof it does not heat? Without plants there should be more CO2, right? Why then is the desert so cold at night? Idiots!

semperloco
27th January, 2010 @ 02:47 pm PST

semperloco you seem to be highly political and of course you support guns, do you? Desert cooling at night has nothing do do with CO2 at all. Rather it is the measure of water/water wapor (that acts similarly as C02 only at different wave length and you admit there is not much of water vapor in deserts? You have high heat radiation to outer space in deserts at night therefore easy temperature drop. The other factor is water at other places (in plants, lakes, all forms) that has very high thermal storage capacity and stabilizes temperature. Evaporation from water surface keeps temperature lower during the day. The last thing will be active contribution of plants (again, evaporation during the day on HUGE surface of leaves) that makes temperature swing less. These are mechanisms I am aware of that stabilize temperature everywhere else but in deserts.

Your personal outrage is deplorable but does not change the facts. What you assert is simply not true. A lot of it is media spin. The data support global warming.

nehopsa
28th January, 2010 @ 12:12 am PST

There are two things you can do when facing a complex issue: increase your own level of sophistication, or ignore the subtleties and pretend the world itself is no more complex than your current world view.

So good for you if you imagine that cooking up your own theory about why it gets cold at night outweighs decades of work by thousands of very intelligent, highly educated people. I guess you'll impress your buddies in the bar, your niece, or whoever feeds your sense of self worth. You can even rail about how these people are "idiots".

Better yet, add some spice and say global warming is a conspiracy theory. Everyone loves a juicy story, especially when that's all it is to them -a story.

But just don't call yourself a skeptic -you haven't done enough mental work yet. At this stage, you're only a garden variety denier. Real skeptics are thinkers.

For those readers who have heard the argument that water vapor in the atmosphere causes warming, and are wondering what the real argument is about, you could do a lot worse than check out sites like skepticalscience.com:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/water-vapor-greenhouse-gas.html

nautilus_mr
28th January, 2010 @ 03:03 am PST

nehopsa, I read semperloco's post and there isn't anything about guns in it. Of course I suppose you are using the same philosophy that the climateGate folks use, "if someone disagrees with us we will just make up some data to demonize them".

If you are going to cite data as supporting global warming then you might want to mention that there is also data that shows global warming has been going since long before man showed up and that it is a natural occurrence.

TheLip
28th January, 2010 @ 08:55 am PST
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