The development of the Earth’s climate includes many components. And new research has shown just how important the ozone layer is to Earth’s surface temperature. Without the ozone layer, our planet would be 3.5 Kelvin cooler.
Many feedback and forcing mechanisms play a role in stabilizing and adjusting the Earth’s overall average temperature.
In the simplest picture, we receive radiation from the sun. Some of this radiation bounces off our upper atmosphere while the rest travels down. Part of this radiation is absorbed by the air and the ground.
The rest of the radiation is reflected from the earth’s surface. Most of it escapes back into space, but some of it is reabsorbed by the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect that heats our surface to temperatures higher than what could be achieved without it.
But that is a very simplified picture. In reality, our temperature and climate depend on everything from the abundance of different molecules in the atmosphere to the circulation systems of the oceans and atmosphere.
While the ozone layer in Earth’s upper atmosphere is critical in blocking the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, most climate models have ignored the role of ozone in studying Earth’s climate.
However, researchers have examined the effects of the ozone layer in a new article appearing in the preprint journal arXiv.
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We didn’t always have an ozone layer. Before life began, there was practically no ozone in our atmosphere. And the earth has spent billions of years with only a minimal ozone layer.
Only in a relatively short period of time has it stabilized at the high levels we see today. And while the molecular oxygen that makes up a good portion of Earth’s atmosphere plays little role in climate, the ozone layer does.
To study the effects of the ozone layer, the researchers used a series of simulations of Earth’s climate. They varied the amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere and caused the Earth’s temperature to reach equilibrium.
They found that the presence of ozone has a warming effect on our surface temperatures, raising the Earth’s surface temperature by about 3.5 Kelvin on average. If the ozone layer were to disappear, whether by human action or otherwise, it would have catastrophic effects on our climate.
The primary effect of ozone depletion would be cooling of the upper stratosphere. Cooler air can no longer hold as much moisture and the stratosphere would therefore become drier.
Water vapor is an important greenhouse gas, and without water vapor, the Earth’s overall greenhouse effect would be less.
Beyond the changes in Earth’s temperature, the lack of ozone would have significant impacts on our overall climate.
The lack of ozone and the resulting cooling of the stratosphere would also destabilize this layer of the atmosphere and prevent cloud formation. This would result in clouds appearing only at lower and higher altitudes.
Also, some jet streams would be strengthened near the equator while others would be weakened near the poles. This would have drastic consequences for seasonal weather patterns in all latitudes.
The Earth’s atmosphere is a rich, complex system and this result shows that each component plays an important role.
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.