EGU21-12783, updated on 18 Jul 2023
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The response of stratospheric ozone and dynamics to changes in atmospheric oxygen

Iga Józefiak1, Timofei Sukhodolov2,3,4, Tatiana Egorova2,3, Eugene Rozanov2,3,4, Gabriel Chiodo3,5, Andrea Stenke3, and Thomas Peter3
Iga Józefiak et al.
  • 1University of Geneva, Institute for Environmental Sciences, Geneve, Switzerland (
  • 2Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos and World Radiation Center (PMOD/WRC), Davos, Switzerland
  • 3Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • 5Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University (NY), USA

Photolysis of molecular oxygen (O2) maintains the stratospheric ozone layer, protecting living organisms on Earth by absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation. The atmospheric oxygen level has not always been constant, and has been held responsible for species extinctions via a thinning of the ozone layer in the past. On paleo-climate timescales, it ranged between 10 and 35% depending on the level of photosynthetic activity of plants and oceans. Previous estimates, however, showed highly uncertain ozone (O3responses to atmospheric O2 changes, including monotonic positive or negative correlations, or displaying a maximum in O3 column around a certain oxygen level. Motivated by these discrepancies we reviewed how the ozone layer responds to atmospheric oxygen changes by means of a state-of-the-art chemistry-climate model (CCM). We used the CCM SOCOL-AERv2 to assess the ozone layer sensitivity to past and potential future concentrations of atmospheric oxygen varying from 5 to 40 %. Our findings are at odds with previous studies: we find that the current mixing ratio of O2, 21 %, indeed maximizes the O3 layer thickness and, thus, represents an optimal state for life on Earth. In the model, any alteration in atmospheric oxygen would result globally in less total column ozone and, therefore, more UV reaching the troposphere. Total ozone column in low-latitude regions is less sensitive to the changes, because of the “self-healing” effect, i.e. more UV entering lower levels, where O2 photolyzes, can partly compensate the O3 lack higher up. Mid- and high-latitudes, however, are characterized by ±20 DU ozone hemispheric redistributions even for small (±5 %) variations in O2 content. Additional regional patterns result from the hemispheric asymmetry of meridional transport pathways via the Brewer-Dobson circulation (BDC). We will discuss the different ozone responses resulting from changes in the BDC. These effects are further modulated by the influence of ozone on stratospheric temperatures and thus on the BDC. Lower O2 cases result in a deceleration of the BDC. This renders the relation between ozone and molecular oxygen changes non-linear on both global and regional scales.

How to cite: Józefiak, I., Sukhodolov, T., Egorova, T., Rozanov, E., Chiodo, G., Stenke, A., and Peter, T.: The response of stratospheric ozone and dynamics to changes in atmospheric oxygen, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12783,, 2021.

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