Tunguska Meteor Fall of 1908: Effects on Stratospheric Ozone

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Science  02 Oct 1981:
Vol. 214, Issue 4516, pp. 19-23
DOI: 10.1126/science.214.4516.19


In 1908, when the giant Tunguska meteor disintegrated in the earth's atmosphere over Siberia, it may have generated as much as 30 million metric tons of nitric oxide (NO) in the stratosphere and mesosphere. The photochemical aftereffects of the event have been simulated using a comprehensive model of atmospheric trace composition. Calculations indicate that up to 45 percent of the ozone in the Northern Hemisphere may have been depleted by Tunguska's nitric oxide cloud early in 1909 and large ozone reductions may have persisted until 1912. Measurements of atmospheric transparentiy by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the years 1909 to 1911 show evidence of a steady ozone recovery from unusually low levels in early 1909, implying a total ozone deficit of 30 ± 15 percent. The coincidence in time between the observed ozone recovery and the Tunguska meteor fall indicates that the event may provide a test of current ozone depletion theories.