© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Temperature thresholds for chlorine activation and ozone loss in the polar stratosphere
1NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA
2Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK-7), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
Abstract. Low stratospheric temperatures are known to be responsible for heterogeneous chlorine activation that leads to polar ozone depletion. Here, we discuss the temperature threshold below which substantial chlorine activation occurs. We suggest that the onset of chlorine activation is dominated by reactions on cold binary aerosol particles, without the formation of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs), i.e. without any significant uptake of HNO3 from the gas phase. Using reaction rates on cold binary aerosol in a model of stratospheric chemistry, a chlorine activation threshold temperature, TACL, is derived. At typical stratospheric conditions, TACL is similar in value to TNAT (within 1–2 K), the highest temperature at which nitric acid trihydrate (NAT) can exist. TNAT is still in use to parameterise the threshold temperature for the onset of chlorine activation. However, perturbations can cause TACL to differ from TNAT: TACL is dependent upon H2O and potential temperature, but unlike TNAT is not dependent upon HNO3. Furthermore, in contrast to TNAT, TACL is dependent upon the stratospheric sulfate aerosol loading and thus provides a means to estimate the impact on polar ozone of strong volcanic eruptions and some geo-engineering options, which are discussed. A parameterisation of TACL is provided here, allowing it to be calculated for low solar elevation (or high solar zenith angle) over a comprehensive range of stratospheric conditions. Considering TACL as a proxy for chlorine activation cannot replace a detailed model calculation, and polar ozone loss is influenced by other factors apart from the initial chlorine activation. However, TACL provides a more accurate description of the temperature conditions necessary for chlorine activation and ozone loss in the polar stratosphere than TNAT.