Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Ozone-Depleting Substances May Have Driven Arctic Warming, Study Finds

Science
A new study shows that half of all Arctic warming and corresponding sea-loss during the late 20th century was caused by ozone-depleting substances. Here, icebergs discharged from Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier. Kevin Krajick / Earth Institute / EurekAlert!

The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone-depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.


Now a new study has found that those ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which were developed in the 20s and 30s were responsible for roughly one-third of global warming from 1955 to 2005 and half of Arctic warming and sea-ice loss during that period. The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The ODS, which includes chlorofluorocarbons, were widely used as refrigerants, solvents and propellants and became ubiquitous in the 1950s. They acted as a strong addition to carbon dioxide gas, the most pervasive greenhouse gas. Unlike carbon dioxide, the halogen compounds that are ODS are entirely man-made, so they did not exist in the atmosphere before they were introduced in industrial and domestic products. Since the ban on them was implemented in 1989, their deleterious impacts have started to fade as they slowly dissolve from the atmosphere, according to a press release from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

While most research has focused on what these substances do to the ozone, this is the first study that ties ODS to the unprecedented rate of Arctic warming, according to Nature.

"While the dominant role of carbon dioxide is undisputed, another important set of anthropogenic [greenhouse gasses] was also being emitted over the second half of the twentieth century: ozone-depleting substances," researchers wrote in Nature Climate Change, as Newsweek reported.

The team of researchers, led by Lorenzo Polvani from Columbia University, said this is the first time the warming effects of ODS have been quantified, according to Newsweek.

The researchers looked at two different climate models, one model looked at what has happened in the world, the other removed all the ODS. Without the ODS, the Arctic would warm 0.82 degrees Celsius. However, when the ODS were factored in, the number jumped to 1.59 degrees Celsius, as Nature reported.

The research saw similar dramatic changes in sea-ice loss. They were even able to run the models to compare various layers of ozone thickness. That way they found that Arctic warming was due directly to the presence of the chemicals and not to the hole in the ozone, according to Nature.

"This paper points out a large role for the ODS in Arctic warming, but we also have to remember the cooling effect of aerosol increases," Professor Martyn Chipperfield, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Leeds in the UK who was not involved in the study, told Newsweek. "The cooling effect of aerosols is included in the models and offsets some of the greenhouse gas warming."

"For the ODSs, the exact mechanism which leads to a magnified impact in the Arctic remains to be determined," said Chipperfield. "It is a complex problem because there are many different major and minor ODS but only a few are treated in the models. Further modeling studies are needed to investigate this."

Polvani believes the study shows that the phase-out of ODS and greenhouse gasses could help stop ice-melt in the future.

"Climate mitigation is in action as we speak because these substances are decreasing in the atmosphere, thanks to the Montreal Protocol," said Polvani, a professor in Columbia's Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, in a statement. "In the coming decades, they will contribute less and less to global warming. It's a good-news story."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trump sits during a meeting about safely reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic on July 7, 2020, in Washington, DC. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration began the formal process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), a White House official said Tuesday, even as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the country.

Read More Show Less
Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less