Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Arctic Ozone Hole

We begin the Tuesday Science Features with something very up-to-date: the polar ozone hole, which occurs in spring time. Today, two independent(?) news items were published on this year's Arctic ozone hole, which is taking place right now.

One of these news items is about the measurements of the ENVISAT satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA), which clearly show a large depletion of ozone above the Arctic. The picture shown here is from ENVISAT data, more specific from the MIPAS instrument. For more information, read the original article on ESA's pages entitled "Record loss of ozone over Arctic."

The other item published today comes from much closer to home. It is about the ozone balloon soundings made regularly during the past 21 years at the Arctic Research Centre of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. FMI-ARC is a neighbour of the EISCAT UHF receiver system at Sodankylä, Finland, located only a few hundred metres away. Since it is spring in Finnish Lapland, i.e. the days are often sunny, tempratures are above freezing, and there's still plenty of snow, lot of people enjoy the outdoors. FMI, however, warns of sunburns due to thin protective ozone layer and reflective snowcover. Read the full article entitled "Record-thin ozone layer over Nordic region" in the English language version of the main Finnish newspaper "Helsingin sanomat".

Why is this relevant to EISCAT_3D? The current EISCAT radars are and the future EISCAT_3D will be located namely in the European Arctic, under the polar vortex, and thus directly where the Arctic ozone hole occurs. Moreover, the future radar aims at providing more mesospheric data. Together with stratospheric and other meteorological measurements we will be able to monitor the atmosphere much more comprehensively above Northern Europe. One of the key objectives of EISCAT_3D is to study and quantify the influence of natural solar-terrestrial variability on climate. Understanding the atmosphere as a complex system embedded in the Earth's space environment is essential in this context.

Image: source on ESA's site; showing ENVISAT/MIPAS temperature field for the Arctic on 6th March 2011 at the start of the ozone depletion at a height of 50 hPa. Credits: Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), Germany.


  1. The same news were just published also on the BBC News website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12969167 entitled "Arctic ozone levels in never-before-seen plunge". This is also a topic today at the European Geosciences Union's General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

  2. This seems to be the science news of the day: here's the press release of the German Alfred-Wegener-Institute (in German) entitled "Ozonschwund über der Arktis führte zu erhöhter ultravioletter Strahlung in Skandinavien - Kurze Phasen höherer UV-Strahlung auch in Mitteleuropa möglich": http://www.awi.de/de/aktuelles_und_presse/pressemitteilungen/detail/item/record_depletion_of_arctic_ozone_layer_caused_increased_uv_radiation_in_scandinavia/?cHash=d37eacfb534c21ea68417b5cf8a6d11c


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