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How much ozone was there in the ancient atmosphere?

By 13th June 2019 No Comments

By how much have “bad” ozone levels increased since the start of the Industrial Revolution? Researchers in the US and France have now answered this long-standing question using rare oxygen molecules trapped in air bubbles in old ice and snow. They been able to track how much ozone there was in the ancient atmosphere using their technique – something that has never been done before. “The results show that today’s best models simulate ancient tropospheric ozone levels well,” says study lead author Laurence Yeung of Rice University. “That bolsters our confidence in their ability to predict how tropospheric ozone levels will change in the future.” The work is reported in Nature.


Rice University researchers and collaborators used ice cores, like the one shown here from Antarctica, in combination with atmospheric chemistry models to establish an upper limit for the increase in ozone levels in the lower atmosphere since 1850. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

The research team includes investigators from the University of Rochester in New York, the French National Center for Scientific Research’s (CNRS) Institute of Environmental Geosciences at Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA), CNRS’s Grenoble Images Speech Signal and Control Laboratory at UGA and the French Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory of both CNRS and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) at the Université Versailles-St Quentin.

Reference: Isotopic constraint on the twentieth-century increase in tropospheric ozone, Laurence Y. Yeung et al., Nature.

Read the news article from Rice University.