SOURCE: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

DATE: June 24, 2019

SNIP: Increased solar radiation penetrating through the damaged ozone layer is interacting with the changing climate, and the consequences are rippling through the Earth’s natural systems, effecting everything from weather to the health and abundance of sea mammals like seals and penguins. These findings were detailed in a review article published today in Nature Sustainability by members of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Environmental Effects Assessment Panel, which informs parties to the Montreal Protocol.

“What we’re seeing is that ozone changes have shifted temperature and precipitation patterns in the southern hemisphere, and that’s altering where the algae in the ocean are, which is altering where the fish are, and where the walruses and seals are, so we’re seeing many changes in the food web,” said Kevin Rose, a researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who serves on the panel and is a co-author of the review article.

While ozone depletion has long been known to increase harmful UV radiation at the Earth’s surface, its effect on climate has only recently become evident. The report points to the Southern Hemisphere, where a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica has pushed the Antarctic Oscillation — the north-south movement of a wind belt that circles the Southern Hemisphere — further south than it has been in roughly a thousand years. The movement of the Antarctic Oscillation is in turn directly contributing to climate change in the Southern Hemisphere.

As climate zones have shifted southward, rainfall patterns, sea-surface temperatures, and ocean currents across large areas of the southern hemisphere have also shifted, impacting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The effects can be seen in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, South America, Africa, and the Southern Ocean.