High levels of ultraviolet radiation observed by ground-based instruments below the 2011 Arctic ozone hole
Greatly increased levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation were observed at thirteen Arctic and sub-Arctic ground stations in the spring of 2011, when the ozone abundance in the Arctic stratosphere dropped to the lowest amounts on record. Measurements of the noontime UV Index (UVI) during the low-ozone episode exceeded the climatological mean by up to 77% at locations in the western Arctic (Alaska, Canada, Greenland) and by up to 161% in Scandinavia. The UVI measured at the end of March at the Scandinavian sites was comparable to that typically observed 15–60 days later in the year when solar elevations are much higher. The cumulative UV dose measured during the period of the ozone anomaly exceeded the climatological mean by more than two standard deviations at 11 sites. Enhancements beyond three standard deviations were observed at seven sites and increases beyond four standard deviations at two sites. At the western sites, the episode occurred in March, when the Sun was still low in the sky, limiting absolute UVI anomalies to less than 0.5 UVI units. At the Scandinavian sites, absolute UVI anomalies ranged between 1.0 and 2.2 UVI units. For example, at Finse, Norway, the noontime UVI on 30 March was 4.7, while the climatological UVI is 2.5. Although a UVI of 4.7 is still considered moderate, UV levels of this amount can lead to sunburn and photokeratitis during outdoor activity when radiation is reflected upward by snow towards the face of a person or animal. At the western sites, UV anomalies can be well explained with ozone anomalies of up to 41% below the climatological mean. At the Scandinavian sites, low ozone can only explain a UVI increase of 50–60%. The remaining enhancement was mainly caused by the absence of clouds during the low-ozone period.