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New simulation shows consequences of a world without Earth's natural sunscreen
Date:3/19/2009

f nothing had been done to stop them." Their "world avoided" simulation took months of computer time to process.

The team started with the Goddard Earth Observing System Chemistry-Climate Model (GEOS-CCM), an earth system model of atmospheric circulation that accounts for variations in solar energy, atmospheric chemical reactions, temperature variations and winds, and other elements of global climate change. For instance, the new model accounts for how changes in the stratosphere influence changes in the troposphere (the air masses near Earth's surface). Ozone losses change the temperature in different parts of the atmosphere, and those changes promote or suppress chemical reactions.

The researchers then increased the emission of CFCs and similar compounds by 3 percent per year, a rate about half the growth rate for the early 1970s. Then they let the simulated world evolve from 1975 to 2065.

By the simulated year 2020, 17 percent of all ozone is depleted globally, as assessed by a drop in Dobson Units (DU), the unit of measurement used to quantify a given concentration of ozone. An ozone hole starts to form each year over the Arctic, which was once a place of prodigious ozone levels.

By 2040, global ozone concentrations fall below 220 DU, the same levels that currently comprise the "hole" over Antarctica. (In 1974, globally averaged ozone was 315 DU.) The UV index in mid-latitude cities reaches 15 around noon on a clear summer day (a UV index of 10 is considered extreme today.), giving a perceptible sunburn in about 10 minutes. Over Antarctica, the ozone hole becomes a year-round fixture.

In the 2050s, something strange happens in the modeled world: Ozone levels in the stratosphere over the tropics collapse to near zero in a process similar to the one that creates the Antarctic ozone hole.

By the end of the model run in 2065, global ozone drops to 110 DU, a 67 percent drop from the 1970s. Year-round polar values
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Contact: Sarah DeWitt
sarah.l.dewitt@nasa.gov
301-286-0535
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert

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