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Allen Kenitzer Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (Phone: 301/286-8955) RELEASE: 93-74
1992-93 GLOBAL OZONE LEVELS LOWER THAN ANY PREVIOUS YEAR In the second half of 1992, global ozone levels were 2 to 3 percent lower than any previous year and 4 percent lower than normal, based on extensive data analysis from NASA's Nimbus-7 satellite. "We are seeing lower global ozone values than we've ever seen before," said James F. Gleason, Ph.D., an atmospheric scientist with the University Space Research Association working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We predicted lower ozone in 1992, but nothing like the values we actually observed." The very lowest levels were observed in December 1992 when the global average was approximately 280 Dobson units. By comparison, a normal December value is about 293 Dobson units. Previously, the lowest level of 286 Dobson units was observed in December 1987. Ozone, a molecule made up of three atoms of oxygen, is located primarily in the upper atmosphere, where it absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A Dobson unit is the physical thickness of the ozone layer if it were brought to the Earth's surface (300 Dobson units equals 1/10th of an inch or 3 millimeters). Extensive analysis of independent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA-11) Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet spectrometer (SBUV/2) and the Russian Meteor-3 Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) instrument confirm the Nimbus-7 TOMS data. Comparison of all systems with the ground-based World Standard Dobson Instrument and the Dobson network indicates that the satellite instrument measurements are consistent during the period. - more -
- 2 Northern Hemisphere Mid-Latitudes The 1992 ozone levels were especially low in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere. The December 1992 mid-latitude ozone levels were 9 percent below normal. The low mid-latitude ozone values continue into 1993. The January 1993 ozone levels were 13-14 percent below normal. Preliminary observations of March 1993 mid-latitude ozone show that the levels continue to be 11 to 12 percent below normal. Preliminary results from the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) instrument, flown as part of the recent ATLAS 2 mission, also observed low springtime, northern hemisphere ozone levels in agreement with Nimbus-7 TOMS. Only in the equatorial region were ozone values well within the range of the previous year's data. Scientists say they can only speculate on the cause of the 1992 low ozone values. While the exact cause is unknown, the low ozone may be related to the continuing presence of particles produced in the upper atmosphere following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991. The results of this ozone data analysis will be published in Science magazine. The Nimbus-7/TOMS has measured ozone levels since November 1978 and continues to be the primary monitor of global ozone levels. The NASA TOMS instrument on the Russian Meteor-3 satellite was launched in August 1991. The NOAA-11 SBUV/2 has measured ozone since January 1989. The SSBUV has flown annually on the Space Shuttle since 1989. The TOMS instruments, the Nimbus-7 satellite and the SSBUV project are managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center for NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, D.C. Mission to Planet Earth is NASA's long term, coordinated research effort to study the Earth as a global environmental system. It is comprised of satellites such as Nimbus-7 and UARS, Space Shuttle missions such as this month's flight of ATLAS-2 and airborne and ground-based studies. The NOAA-11 SBUV/2 instrument was launched in December 1988 and is one of a sequence of operational ozone measuring instruments on board the NOAA operational spacecraft series. The spacecraft and instruments are managed by NOAA/National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service. The data processing and evaluation is a cooperative NOAA-NASA effort. - end -