Drivers of hemispheric differences in return dates of mid-latitude stratospheric ozone to historical levels
- ISSN: 16807316
- DOI: 10.5194/acp-13-7279-2013
Chemistry-climate models (CCMs) project an earlier return of northern mid-latitude total column ozone to 1980 values compared to the southern mid-latitudes. The chemical and dynamical drivers of this hemispheric difference are investigated in this study. The hemispheric asymmetry in return dates is a robust result across different CCMs and is qualitatively independent of the method used to estimate return dates. However, the differences in dates of return to 1980 levels between the southern and northern mid-latitudes can vary between 0 and 30 yr across the range of CCM projections analyzed. An attribution analysis performed with two CCMs shows that chemically-induced changes in ozone are the major driver of the earlier return of ozone to 1980 levels in northern mid-latitudes; transport changes are of minor importance. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the spread in the simulated hemispheric difference in return dates across an ensemble of twelve models is only weakly related to the spread in the simulated hemispheric asymmetry of trends in the strength of the Brewer–Dobson circulation. The causes for chemically-induced asymmetric ozone trends relevant for the total column ozone return date differences are found to be (i) stronger increases in ozone production due to enhanced NO<sub>x</sub> concentrations in the Northern Hemisphere lowermost stratosphere and troposphere, (ii) stronger decreases in the destruction rates of ozone by the NO<sub>x</sub> cycle in the Northern Hemisphere lower stratosphere linked to effects of dynamics and temperature on NO<sub>x</sub> concentrations and (iii) an increasing efficiency of heterogeneous ozone destruction by Cl<sub>y</sub> in the Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes as a result of decreasing temperatures.