John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Antarctic Ocean and Sea Ice Response to Ozone Depletion: A Two-Time-Scale Problem

Antarctic Ocean and Sea Ice Response to Ozone Depletion: A Two-Time-Scale Problem.

(Ferreira, D., Marshall, J., Bitz, C.M., Solomon, S., and A. Plumb), Journal of Climate, vol. 28, pp. pages, 2015.


The response of the Southern Ocean to a repeating seasonal cycle of ozone loss is studied in two coupled climate models and is found to comprise both fast and slow processes. The fast response is similar to the interannual signature of the southern annular mode (SAM) on sea surface temperature (SST), onto which the ozone hole forcing projects in the summer. It comprises enhanced northward Ekman drift, inducing negative summertime SST anomalies around Antarctica, earlier sea ice freeze-up the following winter, and northward expansion of the sea ice edge year-round. The enhanced northward Ekman drift, however, results in upwelling of warm waters from below the mixed layer in the region of seasonal sea ice. With sustained bursts of westerly winds induced by ozone hole depletion, this warming from below eventually dominates over the cooling from anomalous Ekman drift. The resulting slow time-scale response (years to decades) leads to warming of SSTs around Antarctica and ultimately a reduction in sea ice cover year-round. This two-time-scale behavior—rapid cooling followed by slow but persistent warming—is found in the two coupled models analyzed: one with an idealized geometry and the other with a complex global climate model with realistic geometry. Processes that control the time scale of the transition from cooling to warming and their uncertainties are described. Finally the implications of these results are discussed for rationalizing previous studies of the effect of the ozone hole on SST and sea ice extent.

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