Articles | Volume 18, issue 2
Research article
 | Highlight paper
06 Feb 2018
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 06 Feb 2018

Evidence for a continuous decline in lower stratospheric ozone offsetting ozone layer recovery

William T. Ball, Justin Alsing, Daniel J. Mortlock, Johannes Staehelin, Joanna D. Haigh, Thomas Peter, Fiona Tummon, Rene Stübi, Andrea Stenke, John Anderson, Adam Bourassa, Sean M. Davis, Doug Degenstein, Stacey Frith, Lucien Froidevaux, Chris Roth, Viktoria Sofieva, Ray Wang, Jeannette Wild, Pengfei Yu, Jerald R. Ziemke, and Eugene V. Rozanov

Abstract. Ozone forms in the Earth's atmosphere from the photodissociation of molecular oxygen, primarily in the tropical stratosphere. It is then transported to the extratropics by the Brewer–Dobson circulation (BDC), forming a protective ozone layer around the globe. Human emissions of halogen-containing ozone-depleting substances (hODSs) led to a decline in stratospheric ozone until they were banned by the Montreal Protocol, and since 1998 ozone in the upper stratosphere is rising again, likely the recovery from halogen-induced losses. Total column measurements of ozone between the Earth's surface and the top of the atmosphere indicate that the ozone layer has stopped declining across the globe, but no clear increase has been observed at latitudes between 60° S and 60° N outside the polar regions (60–90°). Here we report evidence from multiple satellite measurements that ozone in the lower stratosphere between 60° S and 60° N has indeed continued to decline since 1998. We find that, even though upper stratospheric ozone is recovering, the continuing downward trend in the lower stratosphere prevails, resulting in a downward trend in stratospheric column ozone between 60° S and 60° N. We find that total column ozone between 60° S and 60° N appears not to have decreased only because of increases in tropospheric column ozone that compensate for the stratospheric decreases. The reasons for the continued reduction of lower stratospheric ozone are not clear; models do not reproduce these trends, and thus the causes now urgently need to be established.

Short summary
Using a robust analysis, with artefact-corrected ozone data, we confirm upper stratospheric ozone is recovering following the Montreal Protocol, but that lower stratospheric ozone (50° S–50° N) has continued to decrease since 1998, and the ozone layer as a whole (60° S–60° N) may be lower today than in 1998. No change in total column ozone may be due to increasing tropospheric ozone. State-of-the-art models do not reproduce lower stratospheric ozone decreases.
Final-revised paper