Changing Composition of the Global Stratosphere

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Science  10 Feb 1989:
Vol. 243, Issue 4892, pp. 763-770
DOI: 10.1126/science.243.4892.763


The current understanding of stratospheric chemistry is reviewed with particular attention to the influence of human activity. Models are in good agreement with measurements for a variety of species in the mid-latitude stratosphere, with the possible exception of ozone (O3) at high altitude. Rates calculated for loss of O3 exceed rates for production by about 40 percent at 40 kilometers, indicating a possible but as yet unidentified source of high-altitude O3. The rapid loss of O3 beginning in the mid-1970s at low altitudes over Antarctica in the spring is due primarily to catalytic cycles involving halogen radicals. Reactions on surfaces of polar stratospheric clouds play an important role in regulating the abundance of these radicals. Similar effects could occur in northern polar regions and in cold regions of the tropics. It is argued that the Antarctic phenomenon is likely to persist: prompt drastic reduction in the emission of industrial halocarbons is required if the damage to stratospheric O3 is to be reversed.