Articles | Volume 19, issue 7
31 Jul 2001
 | 31 Jul 2001

Characteristics of episodes with extremely low ozone values in the northern middle latitudes 1957−2000

R. D. Bojkov and D. S. Balis

Abstract. A number of episodes are observed when the total ozone for 2 to 3 days has fallen below 220 matm-cm in the northern mid- and polar latitudes in autumn. The occurrences of such episodes represent ozone deviations of about one-third from the pre-1976 Oct-Nov-Dec monthly mean! By using primarily quality checked Dobson data, a clear identification was made of more than three dozen short spells with extremely low ozone in the 1957–1978 period. In the following twenty-two years (1979–2000), using mainly TOMS data, one can identify ~ 46 cases with ozone values falling below 220 matm-cm for longer than 1 day, with each time over an area greater than 500,000 km2 . The Ozone Mass Deficiency (O3MD) from the pre-1976 average ozone values over the affected area was ~2.8 Mt per day, i.e. four to seven times greater than it would be, assuming only a long-term trend in the Oct-Nov-Dec period. The Extremely Low Ozone (ELO3) events on the day of their appearance over the N. Atlantic/European region contribute to the O3MD by representing 16% of the deficiency due to the Oct-Nov trend in the entire 40–65° N latitudinal belt. The O3MD of the greater pool with low ozone (here taken as <260 matm-cm) surrounding the area of the lowest events could contribute on the day of their appearance in Oct-Nov up to 60% and in December, ~30% to the deficiency due to the trend over the entire 40–65° N belt. Analysis of synoptic charts, supported by a backward trajectory on the isentropic surfaces 350 and 380 K, shows that in most of the events, subtropical air masses with low ozone content were transported from the Atlantic toward the UK, Scandinavia, and in many cases, further to the western sub-polar regions of Russia. This transport was sometimes combined with upward motions above a tropospheric anticyclone which lifted low ozone mixing ratios to higher altitudes. The ELO3 events cause a significant deficiency above the tropopause where, in general, the subtropical air is injected. In fact, the overall amount of ozone is not depleted, but redistributed on the hemispheric scale. Review of low ozone events, defined as days with negative deviations from the pre-1976 averages greater than 25% show, in general, similar origin. The seasonally averaged area with ELO3 and the associated O3MD, as well as for the cases with deviations > –25%, has increased during the 1990s, which could be an indication of stronger and/or more frequent subtropical air intrusions. Their occurrences could contribute noticeably to the ozone deficiency of the middle latitude ozone during the days of ELO3 appearances; however, their contribution to the long-term trend of the ozone seasonal decline is of the order of ~10%.

Key words. Atmospheric composition and structure (middle atmosphere - composition and chemistry) Meteorology and atmospheric dynamics (middle atmosphere dynamics)