Stratospheric ozone trends for 1985–2018: sensitivity to recent large variability
The Montreal Protocol, and its subsequent amendments, has successfully prevented catastrophic losses of stratospheric ozone, and signs of recovery are now evident. Nevertheless, recent work has suggested that ozone in the lower stratosphere (< 24 km) continued to decline over the 1998–2016 period, offsetting recovery at higher altitudes and preventing a statistically significant increase in quasi-global (60∘ S–60∘ N) total column ozone. In 2017, a large lower stratospheric ozone resurgence over less than 12 months was estimated (using a chemistry transport model; CTM) to have offset the long-term decline in the quasi-global integrated lower stratospheric ozone column. Here, we extend the analysis of space-based ozone observations to December 2018 using the BASICSG ozone composite. We find that the observed 2017 resurgence was only around half that modelled by the CTM, was of comparable magnitude to other strong interannual changes in the past, and was restricted to Southern Hemisphere (SH) midlatitudes (60–30∘ S). In the SH midlatitude lower stratosphere, the data suggest that by the end of 2018 ozone is still likely lower than in 1998 (probability ∼80 %). In contrast, tropical and Northern Hemisphere (NH) ozone continue to display ongoing decreases, exceeding 90 % probability. Robust tropical (>95 %, 30∘ S–30∘ N) decreases dominate the quasi-global integrated decrease (99 % probability); the integrated tropical stratospheric column (1–100 hPa, 30∘ S–30∘ N) displays a significant overall ozone decrease, with 95 % probability. These decreases do not reveal an inefficacy of the Montreal Protocol; rather, they suggest that other effects are at work, mainly dynamical variability on long or short timescales, counteracting the positive effects of the Montreal Protocol on stratospheric ozone recovery. We demonstrate that large interannual midlatitude (30–60∘) variations, such as the 2017 resurgence, are driven by non-linear quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) phase-dependent seasonal variability. However, this variability is not represented in current regression analyses. To understand if observed lower stratospheric ozone decreases are a transient or long-term phenomenon, progress needs to be made in accounting for this dynamically driven variability.