The Southern Ocean sea surface temperature response to ozone depletion: A multi-model comparison

Will Seviour, Francis Codron, Edward Doddridge, David Ferreira, Anand Gnanadesikan, Yavor Kostov, John Marshall, Lorenzo Polvani, Jack Thomas, & Darryn Waugh
Journal of Climate, 2019.


The effect of the Antarctic ozone hole extends downward from the stratosphere, with clear signatures in surface weather patterns including a positive trend in the southern annular mode (SAM). Several recent studies have used coupled climate models to investigate the impact of these changes on Southern Ocean sea surface temperature (SST), notably motivated by the observed cooling from the late 1970s. Here we examine the robustness of these model results through comparison of both previously published and new simulations. We focus on the calculation of climate response functions (CRFs), transient responses to an instantaneous step change in ozone concentrations. The CRF for most models consists of a rapid cooling of SST followed by a slower warming trend. However, intermodel comparison reveals large uncertainties, such that even the sign of the impact of ozone depletion on historical SST, when reconstructed from the CRF, remains unconstrained. Comparison of these CRFs with SST responses to a hypothetical step change in the SAM, inferred through lagged linear regression, shows broadly similar results. Causes of uncertainty are explored by examining relationships between model climatologies and their CRFs. The intermodel spread in CRFs can be reproduced by varying a single subgrid-scale mixing parameter within a single model. Antarctic sea ice CRFs are also calculated: these do not generally exhibit the two-time-scale behavior of SST, suggesting a complex relationship between the two. Finally, by constraining model climatology–response relationships with observational values, we conclude that ozone depletion is unlikely to have been the primary driver of the observed SST cooling trend.

Download pdf