Brian Dunbar February 3, 1992 Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 1:00 p.m.

EST (Phone: 202/453-1547) Diane Farrar Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-3934) RELEASE: 92-19 SCIENTISTS SAY ARCTIC "OZONE HOLE" INCREASINGLY LIKELY Preliminary results from a NASA-led aircraft study of the upper atmosphere over the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes indicate that development of a late-winter "ozone hole" over the Northern Hemisphere is increasingly likely. Data also show a lessening of the atmosphere's ability to recover from periods of ozone depletion. Scientists working in the second Airborne Arctic Stratospheric Expedition (AASE II), a 6-month, multi-agency program, found the highest levels of chlorine monoxide (ClO), 1.5 parts per billion by volume, ever measured in either polar region during flights over eastern Canada and northern New England. Calculations indicate that such ClO levels, together with smaller amounts of bromine monoxide (BrO), are high enough to destroy ozone at a rate of 1 to 2 percent a day during the relatively brief period of sunlight present at these latitudes in mid-January, said NASA's Dr. Michael Kurylo, the AASE II Program Manager/Program Scientist. Stratospheric ClO and BrO result primarily from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, used as refrigerants) and halons

(bromine compounds used as fire suppressants), industrial products that are released at the Earth's surface. The total amount of ozone depletion and whether an Arctic ozone hole develops depends on meteorological conditions, specifically the size and duration of the polar vortex, a very cold mass of air isolated by high-level winds. When the air within the polar vortex becomes cold enough, small water ice and nitric acid ice particles form. These polar stratospheric clouds, together with stratospheric liquid droplets called aerosols, provide surfaces on which the reactive forms of chlorine are generated. - more -2Ozone destruction then occurs through a series of chemical reactions initiated by sunlight. The possibility of significant ozone loss over the Arctic will be greatest when the vortex remains intact until the end of February, Dr. Kurylo said. The AASE II program comprises flights of NASA's DC-8 and ER-2 aircraft carrying scientific instruments to make remote and "in situ" observations of actual chemical levels in the Arctic atmosphere. AASE II began with flights from Fairbanks, Alaska, in October and has continued with flights from Bangor, Maine, in December and January. AASE II will continue through March. As the vortex oscillated in January, covering different regions of the Arctic, the ER-2 was able to make an unprecedented flight into its center. Scientists thus were able to observe the extent to which non-reactive chlorine had been converted to reactive chlorine, and they concluded that virtually the entire vortex had been converted by mid-January. The AASE II measurements also showed that nitrogen oxides, which help convert reactive chlorine and bromine into non-reactive forms, are significantly depleted throughout the lower polar stratosphere. These findings are direct observational evidence that this important mechanism for checking ozone-depletion is rendered less robust due to chemical reactions of nitrogen oxides on stratospheric aerosols. Thus, the rate at which the atmosphere is able to recover from ozone depletion is reduced, Dr. Kurylo said. AASE II measurements conducted at latitudes as far south as

22 degrees North also show pervasive elevated levels of reactive chlorine and reduced levels of nitrogen oxides. These conditions provide the first direct evidence in the Northern Hemisphere linking global ozone reductions seen by satellite to catalytic reactions involving chlorine and bromine in the lower stratosphere. The presence of enhanced volcanic aerosols from Mount Pinatubo appears to amplify the increased concentrations of ClO, the reduced concentrations of nitrogen oxides and hence, the loss of ozone. AASE II is a multi-agency effort involving NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation, as well as the chemical industry's Alternate Flourocarbon Environmental Acceptability Study. Scientists from several U.S. government laboratories and universities are participating. The NASA aircraft are managed by the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications. - end -