The ozone layer victim of the solar storms of 2003

The concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the upper atmosphere reached, during the spring of 2004, their highest level since 1985, causing a decrease in the stratospheric ozone layer of more than 60% in some cases. Cora Randall, from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and her colleagues from JPL, NOAA, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, NASA, Hampton University and various European (Norway and Sweden) and Canadian laboratories studied data from seven satellites to find an explanation for this phenomenon, observed over the Arctic and northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America. According to their findings, published in Geophysical Review Letters, the large amounts of energetic particles that hit the Earth during solar storms in late 2003 led to the formation of excess NO and NO2 gases, known for their role in the destruction of stratospheric ozone. In addition, the polar vortex which isolates each year the winds of the arctic zone was particularly strong between February and March 2004, which favored a longer residence time of nitrogen oxides at the level of the ozone layer. The loss of ozone is a classic thing in winter and in spring, but it has been accompanied for several decades by a downward trend, which is why the drop in level in 2004, very important, surprised. It illustrates the difficulty for researchers to analyze the causes, natural or induced by man. (Arctic ozone loss concerns researchers)

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