When you hear about the Ozone Hole... you might think about sun burns and skin cancer. Or... maybe you think about aerosol cans... CFCs and the Montreal Protocol. You probably don't picture stronger winds and frothier oceans... but the latest research shows that ozone depletion isn't just about UV rays... it's about Earth's climate as well.
Research has shown that ozone depletion is partially to substantially responsible for reducing Antarctic snow melt... changing storm patterns and reducing the ocean's ability to store carbon dioxide... a major uncertainty in climate change projections.
Some of these effects were first discovered in the 1980s when the westerly winds that whirl around Antarctica began to strengthen and move farther south. Climate models blamed these shifts on stratospheric ozone depletion and rising greenhouse gas concentrations... but scientists weren't sure which driver played a more important role.
A new study of Antarctic wind data used self-organizing maps to identify four repeating wind patterns from 1979 to 2008... and their results show that the wind pattern most readily associated with ozone depletion explained approximately two-thirds of the westerlies' changes.
Oceanographers... in turn... have long suspected that these ozone-driven wind shifts would also affect the ocean... but they weren't sure how. Now... researchers have ironically used the culprits of ozone depletion... CFCs... to trace the ocean's response.
They've found that these winds aren't merely stirring the ocean's surface... they are accelerating ocean overturning (the process of flipping the ocean's water upside down like a baker folding dough). This brings carbon-rich water to the surface that may have been submerged for hundreds or thousands of years. Now on the surface... this water can "ventilate" and dissolved carbon can be released back into the atmosphere.
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