Large amounts of ozone — around 50% more than predicted by the world’s state-of-the-art climate models — are being destroyed in the lower atmosphere over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. This startling discovery was made by a team of scientists from the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Universities of York and Leeds. It has particular significance because ozone in the lower atmosphere acts as a greenhouse gas and its destruction also leads to the removal of the third most abundant greenhouse gas; methane.
Professor Alastair Lewis, Director of Atmospheric Composition at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and a lead scientist in this study, said: “At the moment this is a good news story — more ozone and methane being destroyed than we previously thought – but the tropical Atlantic cannot be taken for granted as a permanent ‘sink’ for ozone.
Professor John Plane, University of Leeds said: “This study provides a sharp reminder that to understand how the atmosphere really works, measurement and experiment are irreplaceable. The production of iodine and bromine mid-ocean implies that destruction of ozone over the oceans could be global”.
Katie A. Read, Anoop S. Mahajan, Lucy J. Carpenter, Mathew J. Evans, Bruno V. E. Faria, Dwayne E. Heard, James R. Hopkins, James D. Lee, Sarah J. Moller, Alastair C. Lewis, Luis Mendes, James B. McQuaid, Hilke Oetjen, Alfonso Saiz-Lopez, Michael J. Pilling, John M.C. Plane. Extensive halogen-mediated ozone destruction over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Nature, 453, 1232-1235 (26 June 2008) DOI: 10.1038/nature07035