The interpretation of the circulation of the Antarctic atmosphere that is provided below is different to that you will find in climate texts. The distribution of tracers of air of different composition reveals the circulation. There is a notion that the polar vortex constitutes a barrier to interaction, people speaking of a strong or a weak vortex……..all this is nonsense. Then there is the notion that ‘atmospheric waves’ disturb the vortex….well…. perhaps in fairyland.

Our interest in  ozone is primarily driven by the fact that we are aware of the protective effect that it provides via the mopping up of ultraviolet light that is harmful to life at the surface of the planet.

There have been many scares related to ozone depletion in the last fifty years. There have been concerns about the effect of spray can propellants, refrigerants and supersonic jets on the upper atmosphere. The most celebrated concern relates to the Antarctic ‘ozone hole’, a natural feature of the Antarctic circulation in late winter that is said to be aggravated due to the influence of man. The hole was first noticed at Halley Bay in 1956 using Dobson’s spectrophotometer. It existed prior to the  concern for the ozone environment. Today it is too often mistakenly suggested that ‘the hole’ is entirely the result of the activities of man. The Montreal Protocol was designed to end the manufacture of the substances held to be responsible for ozone depletion. These substances include Chlorofluorocarbons, Halons and Carbon Tetrachloride.

As documented in previous posts, ozone has a dominant but unrealised role as a natural greenhouse gas that accounts for the differences in density in the ‘weather-sphere’ that is in turn responsible for the synoptic situation that drives winds and weather across the globe. The weather-sphere manifests in mid to high latitudes. It includes the upper troposphere overlapping both troposphere and the tropopause where the temperature does not change with altitude. In mid to high latitudes the ‘weather sphere’ constitutes  the middle of the atmospheric column centred on the 100 hPa pressure level.  It does not include the troposphere below 600 hPa. Change in the ozone content in the weather-sphere drives change in climate. This natural source of climate variation manifests as marked variations in surface temperature associated with atmospheric processes. These processes are most marked in the winter hemisphere.  The processes result in extreme variations in surface temperature in January and July that originate in the Arctic and the Antarctic respectively.  There is a demonstrable relationship between ozone, surface pressure and the height of the tropopause. Knowledge of this relationship dates back to the first half of the 20th century, particularly in the works of GM Dobson and the French Meteorologist de Bort who explored the upper air with helium balloons at his own expense.

Realising the significance of ozone to the synoptic situation it is therefore a matter of interest to explore the mechanisms that account for the concentration and distribution of ozone in the atmosphere and  in particular to elucidate such phenomena as:

  • The increase in the ozone content of the air in the winter hemisphere.
  • The historical trend to a warmer stratosphere in the southern hemisphere, involving a marked ramp up in temperature in the late 1970s with peak warming in October that has been maintained to this day.
  • The maintenance of high ozone concentrations in polar atmospheres into spring in spite of the gradual shortening of the atmospheric path after mid winter.
  • The intensification of cyclone activity off Antarctica through to September/October in conjunction with the appearance of the Antarctic Ozone Hole.
  • The long term loss of atmospheric mass (reduction in surface pressure) in high southern latitudes between 50° of latitude and the Antarctic pole.
  • The reasons for the generalized deficit in ozone in the southern by comparison with the northern hemisphere.
  • The circulation of the atmosphere as it responds to and in turn influences the concentration of trace gases according to latitude and altitude.
  • The role of the high latitude circulations  in regulating the distribution of ozone and the substances that naturally deplete ozone including H20 and Nox that are abundant in the troposphere.

The Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service via  this site provides us with data  showing the composition of the atmosphere over Antarctica:

Seasonal variations in the stratosphere are much more extreme than at the surface. Our examination of the Antarctic atmosphere is focussed on a single day, August 20th 2015 when the temperature of the stratosphere is advancing steeply from its winter minimum  in  the first week of August as is apparent in the diagram below.

50hPa T Antarctica

Chapter 21 is required reading if the reader is to understand the movements in the air described in the current chapter. The reader must comprehend the nature of the ‘weather-sphere’, an entity that is neither troposphere nor stratosphere as conventionally defined.

In the next chapter we will move forward in time to chart the development of the Antarctic ozone hole.

AUGUST 20th 2015

Nox 20Augozone with overlays


In this analysis we depend upon pattern recognition. Both NOx (oxides of nitrogen) and H2O (water) destroy ozone. NOx is uplifted from the troposphere by convection in the tropics. The tracing applied by the author to the first diagram is duplicated as an overlay on the diagram below.

It is clearly evident that NOx is very much involved in the destruction of ozone in low latitudes accounting for the relatively high tropopause and extremely low temperature at 100 hPa over the equator. The activity of NOx  under the influence of generalized convection in low latitudes helps us to understand why ozone partial pressure is greater near the poles. Another factor tending to promote the presence of ozone at higher latitudes is the increased length of the atmospheric path that absorbs some of the short wave energy responsible for the photolytic destruction of ozone and especially so in the night zone in winter.

The banded, ribbon like structure in ozone rich air at 100 hPa is a response to the west to east movement of the atmosphere driven by the high speed circulation of the air inside and outside the polar vortex that increases in velocity with elevation up to and beyond 10 hPa. Tracers of air  from the polar circulation spiral outwards towards the equator as streamers caught in air that has an equator-wards component in its direction of movement. In understanding the atmosphere one must comprehend the forces that are at work at 100 hPa in mid to high latitudes.   If there is an outstanding problem in climate science it is the failure to appreciate the forces involved in generating differences in air density and the fact that the energy supplied by the surface is relatively inconsequential in comparison with the forces at work in the vicinity of the tropopause.

Ninety nine percent of the atmosphere lies below the 10 hPa pressure level. The elevation at 10 hPa is just thirty kilometres. The surface circulation rotates in the same direction as the Earth at a faster rate than the rotation of the Earth itself.  The atmosphere at 10 hPa super-rotates at an even faster speed. It appears that the atmosphere is an electromagnetic medium where the motive force contributing to the winter circulation increases with elevation, particularly over the pole. Recent research identifies a response of the zonal (east-west) wind in high latitudes to geomagnetic phenomena. As an electromagnetically responsive medium, the  upper atmosphere is impacted by the solar wind because it changes the electric fields. The response to this change is via the distribution and the concentration of ozone and other trace gases. We know this because there is a  change in the height of the ‘tropopause’ that is linked to geomagnetic activity. Accordingly, what is described here is ultimately linked to activity on the sun.

On the perimeter of the Antarctic continent intense upper air troughs are formed that propagate downwards towards the surface as an ascending circulation with the cellular structure of a polar cyclone. Meteorologists monitor the strong winds of the jet stream  at 250 hPa but these are not the strongest winds in the polar circulation. In mid winter the strongest winds are to be found at the highest altitudes. Essentially the circulation responses to forces aloft rather than forces at the surface.

The 100 hPa pressure level is plainly, given the circulation of ozone in the air evident in the left hand diagram, a mixing zone where ozone rich air circulates in peripheral contact with ozone deficient air located over the continent. This mixing is material to the development of polar cyclones that drag up air from the near surface layers but even more so, attract mid latitude air towards the core  in the horizontal plane where the more important differences in atmospheric density and wind strength manifest.  The location of very cold dry air of mesospheric origin is indicated in the diagram above by a blue line that marks the perimeter of very cold, very dry air. The blue line is derived from the diagram at right below.

A striking feature of the circulation at 100 hPa is the heterogeneity in the composition of the air. This is a matter of immediate interest. How and why does this pattern manifest? What accounts for the ozone deficit between ribbons of air that exhibit an elevated ozone content when plainly, at high latitudes, at the 100 hPa elevation, there is no NOx present? The direct ascent of NOx from the surface is not evident at 100 hPa . Plainly the ozone is being drawn into and traversing a domain of very different air that has a much lighter ozone content and virtually no water content, devoid of NOx, indicating a process of lateral mixing where the ozone traversing the polar domain, perhaps due to a limited rate of intrusion, becomes a minor part of the composition of the air behind the vortex. Notice that at the 100 hPa level peak ozone concentration is 1.6 ppmv whereas it ramps up to 5 pppv  at 50 hPa.

The vortex actually constitutes a chain of discrete low pressure cells that surround the continent. The essence of each independent cell is the ingress of parcels of air that are essentially very different in temperature and chemical composition. The vortex is not an exclusive but very much an inclusive, homogenising process that can never run to completion, even though it may more closely approach homogenization in summer. The vortex constitutes a very different set of phenomena to that described in conventional climate science texts.

The circulation at 100 hPa is indeed a classic spiral of the sort that manifests when pigment is mixed into a can of house paint, but in this case a mixing process that can never reach completion.


Source of diagram at left here.

winds etc



In the top diagram we have wind and temperature at 250 hPa and superimposed on that, the distribution of Nox and ozone at 100 hPa. On the second diagram we have the distribution of H2O, and superimposed on that the distribution of both NOx and ozone.

It is plain that:

  • The ozone content of the air at  100 hPa is closely associated with differences in air temperature and the flow of the circulation. We know that the ozone content of the air at 500 hPa through to 100 hPa and above is closely associated with the synoptic situation at the surface. Upper level troughs drive the circulation of the air in mid to high latitudes. Upper level troughs are associated with warm air heated by ozone. Troughs manifest in maps of geopotential height, upper air temperature and upper air ozone content as seen here. These are the essential aspects of the weather-sphere, an upper air rather than a near surface phenomenon.
  • There is more water in the air at 100 hPa in near equatorial latitudes and very little over the Antarctic continent. The water in the tropics is in the same zone that exhibits elevated NOx. The uplift of moisture and NOx in low latitudes is patently an influential dynamic affecting the ozone content of the global atmosphere.
  • The zone of very low temperature over Antarctica is associated with air that contains very little moisture, some ozone but no NOx. At its heart is a rotating, three pronged mass of very cold dry air shaped like a tyne in implement that could be towed behind a tractor to till the soil. This is primarily air that has descended from the mesosphere. Mesospheric air descends in winter under the influence of high surface pressure. The rate of  descent of this air is a prime determinant of the ozone content of the global atmosphere, much more influential that fluctuations in the quantum of short wave solar radiation emanating from the sun.
  • Ozone rich air that is warmer than tropical air  lies between the warm, wet, Nox rich air of the tropics and the cold, very dry air descending from the mesosphere.
  • In the mid latitudes appreciable quantities of moisture from the near surface atmosphere are associated at the 100 hPa level with warm, low density air containing ozone. H2o is conjointly an absorber, with ozone, of infrared radiation. In the weather-sphere it is variations in air density that determine the synoptic situation that is mapped at 500 hPa and at the surface. Water vapour and ozone are allies in determining the density of the upper air.

Lets now look at ozone and NOx at 100 hPa from an equatorial perspective.


In the global (rather than the polar stereographic) view, we see that the zones of elevated NOx content at 100 hPa are  associated with zones of low ozone concentration in low and mid altitudes. In August ascending NOx from the troposphere affects ozone concentration from 50-60° North latitude to about 40° south latitude.  Plainly NOx tends to reduce ozone concentration more in the summer than the winter hemisphere. Because of the distribution of land and sea the annual range in temperature (and convection) is much greater in the northern than the southern hemisphere.

There is a staccato wave like pattern of enhanced NOx/depleted ozone exhibiting a north south orientation across the near equatorial latitudes. These features may be causally associated with the ‘equatorial Kelvin waves’ observed by meteorologists.

Plainly the greatest impact of NOx on ozone at 100 hPa is seen in the northern hemisphere. However, trace amounts of NOx have a relatively severe depletion effect on the ozone content of the southern lower stratosphere that is apparent in the wing like extensions south of latitude 30° south.

Despite the enhanced attack of NOx in the northern hemisphere ozone levels are always higher than in the southern hemisphere indicating that the more influential driver of change in hemispheric ozone is by far the intake of air from the mesosphere at the respective poles.

Lets transfer our attention to ozone and NOx at the 50 hPa level.

50hPa mercators

Note that the ozone profile traced in the higher diagram is overlaid on the lower diagram. The zone of elevation of the air associated with polar cyclones is centred on latitude 60-70° south that is poleward of the annular ring of higher ozone values at 40-70° of latitude on the margins of the Antarctic continent In fact it lies between ozone rich air to the north and ozone deficient air over the continent. This is the mixing zone. We might call it the Polar Front. Its a meeting place where things get stirred together. It exhibits the lowest surface pressure seen anywhere on the planet and it manifests as chain of polar cyclones.

The pattern of surface pressure across the globe in August is documented below, courtesy of the JRA 55 atlas to be found here. If we compare the pattern of surface pressure with  the distribution of NOx the two are identical. At 50 hPa NOx is plainly a marker for uplift.  That uplift involves a lateral intake of NOx rich air between the 100 hPa level where NOx is not evident and the 50 hPa level where NOx is evident. Lateral movement of the air is  a very strong feature of the polar circulation surrounding the Antarctic continent. NOx and ozone are entrained at this level,  one acting to some extent as a marker for the other. Note the ribbon of ozone deficient air that lies between the band of ozone rich air and the margins of the continent. It is not the edge of the landmass that governs the location of the circulation even though it may appear to do so. A mass of sea ice surrounds the continent in August.  Rather, it is the surface pressure arrangement with a planetary high in surface pressure over the continent itself and a planetary low at 50-60° south latitude. This is the undiscovered gorilla in the climate science chamber of conceptual errors.

SLP August


Referring now to the diagrams immediately above: The core of air with depleted NOx marked ‘mesosphere’ is surrounded by NOx rich air at 50 hPa. Air that contains NOx is drawn in laterally to participate in the high latitude circulation via intense polar cyclones that elevate air into the stratosphere. These cyclones do not respect a hypothetical ‘tropopause’. These cyclones are more intense in terms of geopotential height contours (or isobars) at 100 hPa than at the surface. It is at this level that the energy to drive the circulation is to be found. The circulation is powered by long wave radiation from the Earth whether the sun is below the horizon or above the horizon. The rotation and the uplift is a function of differences in the ozone content of the air…….unknown to climate science.

In the core of the Antarctic circulation there is a zone of mesospheric air that is devoid of NOx. At left we see that the ozone content of this core of mesospheric air is similar to the air in near tropical latitudes. We do not expect air from the mesosphere to contain much ozone.  It is present as a direct result of the intake of ozone rich air that spirals inward towards the heart of the circulation situated more or less over the geographic/ magnetic pole. This process adds ozone to the parcel of mesospheric air that lies within the core disguising its real character. Mesospheric air dilutes the ozone content of the global stratosphere.

Note that tracers of ozone outside the zone of heaviest concentration  at 50 hPa are associated with tracers of NOx. This represents air spun out from the vortex circulation towards mid and low latitudes. The source of these tracers is seen in the structures at 5 to 6 O’Clock and another at 2 to 3 O’Clock. There is  plainly a process of vigorous horizontal mixing at 50 hpa that gives rise to these streamers of air rich in both ozone, NOx and H2O. The latter must be ultimately derived from the lower, near surface atmosphere, perhaps elevated by polar cyclones that travel equator wards into the mid latitudes. Unless we comprehend a ‘weather-sphere’ that is driven by ozone heating and in doing so discard our notions of an ‘ozone free troposphere’ extremes in lateral movement in the middle atmosphere can not be comprehended. Only when we allow for differential heating of the air according to its ozone and water content   can we account for the differences in density that give rise to these powerful upper air movements.

The observation that total column ozone maps surface pressure in the mid latitudes inevitably leads to a very different  idea as to what constitutes the ‘weather-sphere’. It leads to the conclusion that it is ozone in high latitudes that drives the global circulation rather than solar energy acquired in tropical latitudes. Effectively, we tip UNIPCC climate science on its head and give it a damn good shake. It’s wholly and abundantly necessary.

Pressure etc

We see above a comparison between wind at 70hPa, surface atmospheric pressure, the ozone content of the air and the H2O content of the air, the latter at 50hpa.

There is a marked deficit in H2O inside the margins of the Antarctic continent associated with air of mesospheric origin.  The wettest air, if air containing 5.5 ppm by volume can be described as wet, lies partly within and across the inside margin of the ozone rich zone at 50 hPa. Above, we see that this air is NOx rich. This zone exhibits extremely low surface atmospheric pressure. Relatively warm air from the surface westerly flow is drawn in and elevated with ozone rich air that is also wet, the two ‘greenhouse gases’ warming by absorbing radiation from the Earth itself.

H20 and NOx

Above we see that the distribution of NOx and H2O is co-extensive lying between the very cold dry air from the mesosphere and  the band of ozone rich air charted in the earlier diagrams.

We are now in a position to describe the nature of the air in the ascending columns within polar cyclones. That air at near surface elevations derives from the westerly stream being relatively rich in both NOx and H2O and the polar easterly stream of near surface air off the continent.  Above the 500 hPa pressure level the circulation is invigorated and its composition changes. Ozone rich air is anomalously warm. Uplift is generated aloft where warm, ozone rich air is reinforced with air containing water both constituting potent absorbers of long wave radiation from the Earth.


Ozone all levels

Above left we see a representation of peak ozone content of the air at 50 hPa as a tracing over the map showing the composition of the air at 10 hPa. The map at right shows Total Column Ozone. It is apparent that there is a widening of the annular ring of high ozone values with increasing elevation. This cone shaped space over Antarctica is occupied by mesospheric air in winter and spring under a regime of high surface pressure over Antarctica. In fact surface pressure over the continent regularly attains a planetary peak at about 1050 hPa.

There is no parallel to this structure in the northern hemisphere. If there were the evolution of the climate of the Earth would be very different.

Below we see the temperature of the air and its circulation in the clockwise west to east fashion about the globe with the view centred over Antarctica.

circulation at 70hPa and 10hPa

Between 70 hPa (17 km) and 30 hPa (30 km) the air ascends as it circulates and it warms due to the fact that it is the warmer, less dense air that preferentially ascends. The tracing representing total column ozone in pink is roughly co-extensive with the warm zone.This is the reason why the stratosphere at 10 hPa is warmer near the winter pole than it is over the equator. It is the accumulation of ozone at elevation and its ability to derive energy from infra-red radiation from the Earth itself (in the relative absence of short wave radiation from the sun) that produces the warm zone centred on about 35° south latitude at 10 hPa. Here is another error in UNIPCC climate science. The stratosphere at and below  10 hPa owes its warmth to long wave radiation from the Earth, not short wave radiation from the sun.

Within the column of colder air that descends in the core of the circulation, the air at 50 hPa is 12°C cooler at 70 hPa than it is at 10 hPa. This testifies to the importance of lateral movement in the stratosphere that allows cold air to enter the circulation other than via vertical descent.

The core of the circulation is relatively ozone deficient. However, the ozone content of the core does not represent the ozone content of mesospheric air because it is a function of mixing processes at all levels. Ozone is introduced from the perimeter.

So far as NOx is concerned, the evidence is that it enters the descending core primarily via ascent from the lower atmosphere rather than descent from the mesosphere although the latter can not be ruled out as an influence on the composition of the air that enters the circulation from the mesosphere. The descent is slow and there is time for reactions to occur.

The evidence suggests that the most vigorous mixing across the air streams occurs between about 300 hPa and 50 hPa.

The lapse rate of temperature in the Antarctic atmosphere below 100 hPa is much less than in the mid and low latitudes reflecting a significant ozone presence down to the near surface layers. As surface pressure increases so does the rate of descent bringing warmth to the surface that is always colder than the atmosphere.

Mixing is evident in the streamers of air that radiate from the core between 100 hPa and 50 hPa. Mixing involves the escape of cold air of mesospheric origin into the wider atmosphere imposing an ozone control dynamic with rate of flow of mesospheric air a function of surface pressure and geomagnetic influences. In this way, the polar atmosphere is set up for solar control of the synoptic situation globally.

In the next post I will explore the manner in which NOx from the lower atmosphere floods the lower stratosphere to produce an ‘ozone hole’ in the lower stratosphere as the temperature of the stratosphere rapidly increases in spring cutting off the flow of cold air from the mesosphere, dramatically reducing the rotation speed of the polar circulation and by late December temporarily reversing its flow. It then circulates in an anticlockwise direction at 10 hPa while maintaining its clockwise circulation at and below 70 hPa despite the flooding of the polar cap with slowly moving warm, relatively ozone rich air and the almost complete disappearance of cold mesospheric air. Nevertheless, it appears that strong lateral flows in the region of 250 hPa to 100 hPa continue to supply very cold dense air that rotates in an anticlockwise fashion in localized high pressure circulations over the Antarctic continent as a less frequent adjunct to a zone that continues to be characterised by dramatically low surface pressure, a product of polar cyclone activity.


Understanding the polar circulation is necessary if we wish to understand the origins of natural climate change and with it the true origins of the modern warming. If that is possible, much time, trouble, waste and distraction can be avoided.  Humanity can then get on with the business of supporting itself, pursuing the process of technological change and performing work with machines that will raise living standards without the worry that  it  is storing up trouble for the future.





Meteorologists are well aware that surface temperature varies with geopotential height at 500 hPa. The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says as  much below.  The full text can be accessed at: here:https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201507

GPH and ST anomalies

But hey, there is a problem here: The  text above the map states  that there is a relationship between geopotential height at 500 hPa and surface temperature. But thereafter, the commentary is  driven by an overarching belief that carbon dioxide drives surface temperature and it is therefore constantly escalating.

But carbon dioxide is well mixed in the atmosphere and cannot account for regional warming on a month by month basis.  The observed warming is  regional in scope and it conforms to the pattern of the distribution of surface pressure and geopotential height, not the distribution of carbon dioxide that is in fact well mixed and very close to uniform in its distribution throughout the atmosphere.

And surface temperature is not constantly escalating as we will see below.

Gordon Dobson started measuring total column ozone in 1924 and soon noticed that total column ozone mapped surface pressure. An increase in surface pressure that is related to the distribution of ozone can originate in two ways namely:

  1. A reduction in the ozone content of the column above 500 hPa allowing the upper half of the column to become more dense, contract and thereby allow more molecules to  populate that column. But, this is not possible in a column of descending air that has its upper extremity in the stratosphere.
  2. A piling up of atmospheric mass against the force of gravity in the mid latitudes due to a shift in mass from high latitudes. The density of the column in the mid latitudes is increased as atmospheric mass accumulates.This should reduce geopotential height at 500 hPa.  For geopotential height to increase at 500 hPa the increase in atmospheric mass must be accompanied by warming below the 500 hPa pressure level . The lower half of the column becomes less dense as the column weight increases.

So, the question arises, is the increase in geopotential height at 500 hPa due to the descent of ozone within the atmospheric column of descending air as the weight of the column increases?


When satellites were equipped to study the atmosphere in 1969 ozone could be mapped more effectively than via surface measurement. The following report of 1973 links the distribution of ozone to geopotential height at 200 hPa :

Sensing ozone

Source: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00881075#page-1

Plainly total ozone varies with the upper troposphere (200 hPa) geopotential height,  and ozone distribution at that level defines the circulation of the air and the jet streams.

If you have read chapter four you will be alert to the fact that south of about 20° of latitude ozone begins to affect the lapse rate at the 300 hPa level  and that the notion of a demarcation between  troposphere and stratosphere via a hypothetical ‘tropopause’ is no longer sustainable. Perhaps it is the fuzzy boundary phenomenon that leads to the ambiguity of lumping together the ‘systematic variation in ozone distribution in lower stratospheric circulation‘ and the ‘correlation between ozone and upper troposphere geopotential height’ in the abstract above.

The variation in ozone partial pressure drives geopotential height at 200 hPa. Of this there is no doubt. But, does it drive  height at 500 hPa? The study reported below bears on this matter.

Baroclynic development

Found at:http://ephyslab.uvigo.es/publica/documents/file_21530-A%20climatology%20based%20on%20reanalysis%20of%20baroclinic%20developmental%20regions%20in%20the%20extratropical%20NH-ANYAS-2008.pdf

The authors of this study set out to examine the distribution of winter geopotential height minima over the period 1958–2006 at the 200, 500, and 850 hPa pressure levels. In effect they engaged in a very extensive mapping exercise to locate cyclones of ascending air that are associated with low surface pressure at three pressure levels, 850 hPa close to the surface, 500 hPa at the mid point and 200 hPa that is plainly within the fuzzy boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere. When the geopotential height at a central point was lower than six or more of the surrounding eight points on a 2.5° latitude and longitude grid  the authors nominated that point as a minimum of geopotential height and mapped it as seen above.

The map reveals that height minima at 500 hPa and 200 hPa have a common geographical distribution. Furthermore, in the lowest map we see an extension of the relationship into subtropical latitudes that sees variations of geopotential height at 850 hPa to some extent aligning  with those at higher elevations.

In the light of this knowledge we might say that the temperature of the surface of the Earth is as much tied to variations in geopotential height at 200 hPa as it is to variations in geopotential height at 500 hPa and the implications would be very much clearer.

Lets pause at this point to remind ourselves of the very simple relationship between the capacity of the air to hold water vapour and its temperature. If the temperature increases more water can be held in the invisible gaseous phase. If temperature increases the droplets of moisture and highly reflective multi branching crystals of ice that constitute clouds will simply disappear. When this occurs the surface of the planet receives more solar radiation and it warms accordingly.

Lets pause a moment longer to observe that this very different chain of thought  is the narrative that should follow the observation that surface temperature is related to geopotential height…… and I hope that the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration takes note and changes their narrative accordingly.

The critical observation is that geopotential height minima have a common distribution throughout what we refer to as ‘the troposphere’ and are forced by one means or another by differences in the ozone content of the air  at the 200 hPa level and above. Many meteorologists being the practical, results oriented fellows that they are, have long noted that cyclogenisis  at elevation seems to be a requisite for the development of cyclogenesis below.

Meteorologists examine the circulation of the air at 500 hPa to be relatively free of the influences of topography, vegetation, land and sea, in order to predict the course of weather in the days ahead.  We see that the action at 500 hPa  is plainly dictated at 200 hPa and above (the lower stratosphere) where the largest variations in geopotential height, ozone partial pressure, atmospheric density and air temperature are observed. But, is that the end of it?


Chapter 5 identified the origin of so called ‘cold core’ Polar Cyclones in the heating of the air above 500 hPa by ozone. A shift in atmospheric mass from high to mid latitudes is forced by enhanced cold core Polar Cyclone activity that drives surface pressure lower in high latitudes. The result is enhancement of surface pressure in the mid and low latitudes.

This chapter establishes that geopotential height at 200 and 500 hPa vary together in the extra-tropical latitudes. Furthermore, the increase in geopotential height that accompanies the surface pressure change is accompanied by a loss of cloud cover. All ultimately relate to the changing flux of ozone in the upper half of the atmospheric column in high latitudes that occurs in winter that drives both the exchange of atmospheric mass and the observed change in the distribution of ozone that drives the circulation of the atmosphere at 200 hPa   in the extra-tropical latitudes.

We are aware that high pressure cells bring air from aloft towards the surface. We are also aware after chapter 5 that the stratospheric circulation involves descent in the mid latitudes. That brings air with an elevated ozone concentration into the troposphere.

Soooooooo, in the absence of an ability to touch, feel, smell or see what is actually happening in the atmosphere and with a sense of caution related to the fact that our hand waving and speculation is not always related to reality, and that we don’t always get things right we should inspect the surface temperature record for date stamping that is related to ozone flux at one pole or the other during the winter season. That should go a long way towards settling the matter, at least until a better explanation comes along……you know, I don’t think the science is ever completely settled.


The tropics constitute a large surface area and make a huge contribution to the global temperature average especially on multi-year ENSO time scales. But surface temperature is actually most volatile on a monthly basis in the mid and high latitudes where ozone directly regulates cloud cover.

It is in the tropics that the waters of both hemispheres are brought together and homogenized. We can eliminate short term variability due to wind by looking at decades rather than years.

In the diagram below we have sea surface temperature at decadal intervals. Tropical sea surface air temperatures in April, May, June and July behave as if they were a bundled package with little variation between  months.  Departures seem to occur only when there is a marked change in trend. The month of April shows more variability and July the least.

SST Tropics Ap,M,J,J

By contrast, we see in the graph below, drawn to the same scale, that there is a big variation in air temperature between August and March.  It is between August and March that polar processes engineer large changes in surface temperature according to the flux in ozone from month to month, year to year, decade to decade and across the centuries. Pre-eminent in terms of volatility are the months January February and March and to a smaller extent December, under the sway of Arctic polar processes. The Arctic, precisely because of the limited descent of mesospheric air is supercharged with ozone. When change occurs it’s dynamic. Its like coming into a perfectly dark room and switching on the light.

SST tropics other months

Source of data: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl

Antarctic atmospheric  processes that involve the same interaction with mesospheric air as in the Arctic, but on a much more continuous and interactive basis, are most volatile between August and November. The movement in tropical sea surface temperature in these months is in the same direction at the same time but has less vigour in line with the reduced partial pressure of ozone in the entire southern hemisphere. The fluctuations in cloud cover and surface temperature engineered by the Antarctic are consequently muted and can be compared with the act of switching on a light fitted with one of these newfangled environmentally conscious, energy saving  halogen globes that emit much less light.

Observe that in the last decade surface temperature in the tropics between August and November has fallen away, a departure from the long term trend but not unprecedented.

In the key months where the Arctic has a strong influence on cloud cover and surface temperature (January through to March) a departure from trend manifested a decade earlier in  1997-2006. A cooling trajectory was established in the last decade in all months that are strongly affected by polar atmospheric processes. This is due to a continuing reduction in ozone partial pressure in high latitudes in both hemispheres that goes along with a cooling of the high latitude stratosphere.

We will see that January and February are months of most extreme temperature variability in all latitudes between 30° south and 90° north while June and July are the months when the Antarctic most heavily stamps its authority on temperature between 30°south and 90° south.

We will see that the change in surface pressure due to the flux in ozone in high southern latitudes happens on very long time  scales with a swing so wide as to govern the ozone content of the entire stratosphere. The Antarctic makes the centennial swells upon which the Arctic generates the energetic surface chop.

Why did tropical sea surface temperature decline in the decade 1967-76? Why the spectacular increase of 0.5°C over the following two decades? Why the departure from trend between January and March in the last two decades. Obviously, there are more complex factors at work than a the remorseless increase in the very tiny proportion of the well mixed greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But let me hasten to add that there is one, naturally occurring greenhouse gas that is quite unequally distributed, that varies in its concentration across the year and over time. It varies under the influence of polar atmospheric processes that dictate the rate of entry of mesospheric air that contains the chief agent of erosion  of ozone in the stratosphere described as NOx.

Follow the data, that is what science should be about. If  the narrative doesn’t follow the data, its propaganda.

Lets face it, people tell fibs to suit their own purposes.

5 The enigma of the ‘cold core’polar cyclone


Source of data above:http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl

When I started looking into atmospheric matters back in 2008 and I discovered that the temperature of the Antarctic in mid winter at 10 hPa had jumped in the 1970’s as the atmospheric pressure at the surface took a plunge it started me on a search for answers. This post tells you what I have discovered as a private self funded researcher seven years on.

The cold core polar cyclone

The ascent of the air at the core of a polar cyclone is a mystery because the near surface air in a polar cyclone is cold and dense. Polar cyclones form in high latitudes where the surface and the air in contact with it is very cold. Air that is cold and dense should not ascend. The  unsatisfying explanation that is offered in the meteorological literature has to do with fronts between cold and warm air and the Coriolis ‘force’. But the Coriolis ‘force’ is not a force at all. It explains the direction of rotation and has nothing to do with the force responsible for uplift or down-draft.

Anticyclones form in the mid latitudes where the surface is warmer than in high latitudes. This is the case despite the fact that anticyclones form over water that is relatively cold for the latitude, located on the eastern margins of the oceans. Anticyclones also form over cold land masses in winter. To take the land based anticyclone out of the equation we can examine the summer hemisphere.

It is now possible to examine the atmosphere in real time and toggle back and forward to look at it as on some day in the past. It’s animated too which is a real help. You get spot values at the click of your mouse. This is a fantastic resource for a student of the atmosphere. Find it at:  earth.nullschool.net.

First, sea surface temperature. Observe that the eastern margin of the Pacific is cooler. The ocean moves clockwise, driven by the winds.


The day I have chosen is the first day of September 2015. We will stick to this single day throughout.

Below we have atmospheric pressure with an overlay of wind at 1000 hPa.

The lines indicate the circulation of the winds. Three tropical cyclones manifest south of a large high pressure cell. The high has a central pressure of 1030 hPa.  Cold core Polar cyclones are also in evidence associated with zones of low surface pressure in high latitudes. The air circulates in an anticlockwise direction around cyclones and a clockwise direction around anticyclones.

1000hPa SLP

The map below shows Wind Pressure Density at 1000 hPa (close to the surface) in terms of kilowatts of wind energy per square metre. Tropical cyclones are powerful systems but the energy is generated very close to the core and has little lateral spread . By contrast the cold core polar cyclone shows a fraction of the energy that is generated in a tropical cyclone and the energy manifests remotely, and in particular over the oceans rather than the land.


At 850 hPa (1000 metres) the energy attached to a cold core polar cyclone manifests over both the land and the sea.


The map below shows air temperature at 850 hPa (1000 metres). Shades of green represent temperatures above 0°C . Shades of blue indicate temperatures below 0°C. It is apparent that the air in cold core cyclones at 850 hPa is close to 0°C, while the air in the major anticyclone rejoices in a temperature of 12°C, well below the 24°C that is the temperature of the sea surface only 1000 metres below.

850 Temp

Below we have the temperature of the air at 500 hPa, roughly 5.5 kilometres in elevation with half the atmospheric column below and half above. All temperatures are sub zero.  At its heart the anticyclone has a temperature of -5°C  while the cold core cyclones have central temperature between -24 and -35°C.

500 temp

Below again: There is a marked increase in wind pressure density on the outer margins of cold core cyclones at 500 hPa. But each polar cyclone conserves a relatively extensive core where the horizontal vector in the movement of the air is slight and we can infer that the vertical vector is pronounced. These cold core cyclones are now immensely more powerful and extensive systems than tropical cyclones.

500 WPD

At the 250 hPa pressure level, about 9 kilometres in elevation, extreme wind speeds manifest on the outer margins of cold core polar cyclones while the cores of vertically ascending air are extensive.

250 wind

Below, we see that at 250 hPa the ascending air in the core of a polar cyclone is warmer than the the rapidly rotating air that surrounds it.

250hPa temperature

So, we see that at 9 km in elevation a polar cyclone has a warm core. The laws of physics are not flouted by the ascent of relatively dense air that is somehow magically displaced upwards by air of lower density. It is the power generated aloft that pulls denser air into the system from below. In effect we have the engine attached to an extraction fan above, a pipe extending towards the surface, narrowing as it does so, sucking dense air into the upper atmosphere. This is like a vacuum cleaner that sucks in cold air and pushes out hot air. At 250 hPa just 25% of the atmosphere is above and 75% below. Somewhere between the 500 hPa and the 250 hPa pressure level (5.5 km to 9 km) sufficient energy is imparted to the atmospheric column within these polar lows to reduce the lapse rate of the air with increasing altitude to the point that the air within these polar cyclones becomes relatively warmer and less dense than the air that surrounds the core.

Gordon Dobson who invented the spectrophotometer to measure total column ozone in 1924 very quickly discovered that ozone mapped surface pressure with more ozone in the atmospheric column of low pressure systems than in high pressure systems. De Bort, the Frenchman who put more than 500 balloons into the atmosphere around 1900 discovered that the air became warmer in cells of low surface pressure at a lower elevation than in high pressure cells. Both gentlemen were independently wealthy private researchers who considered that the science of their day was not settled.

There should be no mystery as to the cause of this phenomenon. Once initiated, the system gains momentum by virtue of the fact that the air that is being elevated is warmer that the air through which it ascends. This is so because the surface air is warmer than the air aloft. This gives rise to very extensive areas of extremely low surface pressure in high latitudes.

As the ozone content of the air increases in winter, the jet streams so formed become more intense.

As the ozone content of the air varies from year to year, so too does surface pressure in high latitudes.

As surface pressure falls away in high latitudes it rises in the mid latitudes where anticyclones form.

How far does the air ascend in polar lows?

70 wind

The pattern of ascent is still present, albeit more gently so, at 70 hPa (above) with 93% of the weight of the atmosphere below, an elevation of just 17 kilometres. A balancing descent occurs in the mid latitudes associated with anticyclones.

10hPa wind

The air is still mobile at 10 hPa (30km) with 99% of the atmosphere below. Importantly, there is both ascent and descent.

10 pacific descent

See above. At 10 hPa in early spring in the southern hemisphere the air is very mobile in high latitudes. Gentle descent is apparent over the cold waters south of the equator in the eastern Pacific. This feeds ozone into anticyclones.

70 pacific desc

Above, at 70 hPa we have very strong ascent in the high latitudes and broad areas of gentle descent in the mid latitudes. The southern hemisphere is approaching its seasonal peak in ozone  partial pressure that occurs in October. The winds at 70 hPa reflect where that peak occurs. We are looking at a donut shape sitting atop the Antarctic continent.

250 sth pacific

At 250 hPa the southern hemisphere is in a frenzy driven by differences in ozone partial pressure between air masses of different origin. Patterns of descent will drive the evolution of geopotential height, cloud cover and surface temperature in the manner described in chapter 3.

500 globe pacific

At 500 hPa there is a relaxation in the circulation.

700 desc Pacific

At 700 hPa the winds are more benign. The pattern of descent over the south Eastern Pacific is typical.

700 pacific

The pattern of surface pressure is closely aligned with surface winds. Very high pressure in the south eastern Pacific is associated with very cold waters in this region promoting settlement. This area gains atmospheric mass very strongly when it is lost at 60-70° south very much influencing the strength of the trades and the westerlies across the Pacific and thereby the ocean currents that determine the relative extension of the ‘cold tongue’ across the equatorial Pacific that is the essence of the ENSO phenomenon.

70 Antarctic SLP wind

The flow of the air over Antarctica at 70 hPa is very much related to the pattern of surface pressure forced by the ozone content of the air at lower altitudes. It is the ozone content of the air between 500 hPa and  the 250 hPa that is deterministic so far as the circulation of the winds is concerned.

Notice the zone of high surface pressure over the Antarctic content that sets up a pattern of descent near the surface.

Mesospheric air descends in the core of this circulation. It is relatively deficient in ozone and has damaging levels of the ozone destroyer NOx . The British Antarctic base at Halley Bay lies to the East of the Antarctic Peninsula. When  total column ozone was first measured there using Dobson’s spectrophotometer in 1956 Dobson was amazed at the relative deficit in ozone by comparison with the northern hemisphere. But the deficit disappeared in November, as it does today. As surface pressure has fallen in high southern latitudes due to the increase in the partial pressure of ozone in the donut shaped pattern of polar cyclone activity that surrounds Antarctica, as atmospheric pressure has increased in the mid latitudes of the southern hemisphere expanding the Hadley cell in response to falling pressure in high latitudes, the donut of low pressure has been forced south, the tongue of mesospheric air is narrowed but it penetrates more deeply. This is the chief, albeit unrealized, one hundred percent home grown, all natural, ozone hole dynamic.


So called ‘cold core’ polar cyclones are warm core aloft and they do not contradict the laws of physics. By virtue of the fact that they depend for their activity on the partial pressure of ozone in the air that fluctuates on all time scales we must look to the cause of these fluctuations if we wish to understand the climate at the surface of the globe. It is the exchange of atmospheric mass between high and other latitudes that determines surface wind, cloud cover , the energy flux into the oceans and surface temperature. This is at the root of weather and climate change. I will demonstrate in later chapters that what happens in Antarctica rules all.

The flux in surface pressure that is wrought by ozone is greatest in winter and this puts a date stamp on the  surface temperature record. That identity will be revealed in due course.




4 The geography of the stratosphere mk2

My previous effort in relation to this chapter attracted very few readers. So, here I re-state the argument, hopefully in a more accessible form. I do so because the subject matter is critical. A great deal depends upon an appreciation  of the matters described below. If there are queries and disagreements lets have them up front in the comments:

The description of the nature of the stratosphere given below differs from accounts that you will see in the literature in important respects, and for good reason. The stratosphere is a complex entity, much more complex and interesting than the troposphere. By virtue of its effect on atmospheric pressure in high latitudes (directly responsible for Polar Cyclones and the Jet Streams) the stratosphere drives weather and climate, the planetary winds and surface temperature on all time scales. This realization is new, a product of investigation into what is known as the Annular Modes (ring like modes) of variation in surface pressure over just the last couple of decades and insights into the origin of polar cyclones together with the observations of the early French balloonist De Bort, Gordon Dobson and others that ozone maps surface pressure.  It has long been known that there is enhanced total ozone in cyclones of ascending air (called cold core cyclones) but the significance of this observation has been unrealized.  Ozone heating of the upper part of the atmospheric column is responsible for these cyclones.They are so pervasive in high latitudes that the formation of more cyclones and the intensification of existing cyclones changes surface pressure in high latitudes shifting atmospheric to or from high latitudes in the process.

It is the difference in atmospheric pressure at the surface of the planet that determines the planetary winds, patterns of precipitation and surface temperature so we must get a grip on the nature of Polar Cyclones if we are to understand surface climate.

There are three modes of heating of the air, heating by a warm surface, heating within the atmosphere due to the release of latent heat and heating within the atmosphere by absorption of long wave radiation from the surface of the Earth. Notably, it is the heating of the air due to the presence of the greenhouse gas ozone that accounts for the warmth of the stratosphere and the generation of polar cyclones that are the manifestation of the strongest modes of atmospheric heating on the planet, albeit hitherto overlooked.

In this account I focus exclusively on the southern stratosphere because it is simpler, being relatively unaffected by north south intrusions by land masses, except in the notable instance of South America. In the southern hemisphere a strong accent is given to polar processes due to the  presence of the Antarctic continent almost symmetrically distributed about the pole.  In southern winter the massive and relatively invariable heating of the entire northern hemisphere adds to surface pressure in high southern latitudes. In fact this seasonal shift of atmospheric mass to the southern hemisphere creates a planetary high in surface pressure over Antarctica. The atmospheric dynamics resulting from the donut shaped peak in ozone partial pressure at 60°-70° south latitude result in an ‘ozone hole’ over the polar cap. The chemical composition of the space inside the donut of ozone rich air, and the manner of its escape into the wider atmosphere has profound implications for the evolution of the ozonosphere and the extent of cloud cover globally.


All the remarks under this head address what can be observed in the diagram immediately below. Please give it your closest inspection.

Temp at 10hPa over Antarctica

Source: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/polar/polar.shtml

The temperature profile at 10 hPa that is mapped above exhibits differences in the evolution of temperature between the hemispheres. This has nothing to do with the sun or short wave solar radiation. Air temperature varies with the place that the air comes from and the upper atmosphere is an active rather than a passive medium. Cooling in high latitudes in winter represents a regime of supercooling that is completely unrelated to the progress of the temperature at the surface. This supercooling is the thermal consequence of the penetration of the  polar stratosphere by very cold, ozone deficient air that originates in the mesosphere. When mesospheric air is present, temperature plummets and when it is not present the space hitherto temporarily occupied is taken by warmer, ozone rich air that is immediately adjacent. That pattern of arrival and departure is mapped in shades of blue and green above. By virtue of the erosive effect of NOx compounds present in mesospheric air the ozone content of the wider atmosphere is much affected as mesospheric air is inevitably mixed into the wider atmosphere. It is obvious from the diagram above that this has knock on consequences over a very wide latitude band. Mixing processes speedily  impact the evolution of ozone partial pressure and temperature at lower latitudes and especially so in the northern hemisphere where a prevailingly slight presence of mesospheric air enables a regime of high ozone partial pressure and elevated temperature to prevail. In this regime, small additions of mesospheric air to the melting pot result in widespread change.

The temperature of the stratosphere is a function of the extent of the heating by short wave radiation from above, long wave infra-red from the Earth itself and the dynamics of the movement of the atmosphere affecting the extent of the presence of mesospheric air. Atmospheric dynamics vary strongly with latitude.

The chief absorbers of outgoing infra-red radiation from the Earth are water vapour, of which there is little in the stratosphere, carbon dioxide, that is uniformly distributed and therefore of little account as far as surface pressure is concerned and ozone that is much affected in its concentration by the impact of photolysis. In addition the presence of NOx that catalyses the destruction of ozone affects ozone partial pressure as NOx is rapidly spread across the stratosphere.

Heating by short wave incoming radiation is the dominant influence on the temperature of the stratosphere above 10 hPa affecting the most elevated 1% of the atmospheric column by weight. Long wave infra-red radiation from the Earth drives the warming of the stratosphere very broadly between about 300 hPa and 10 hPa, although the lower fuzzy margin is higher at the equator and lower in high latitudes. The lower fuzzy margin corresponds with the tropopause near the equator but nowhere else. Outside near equatorial latitudes, as the air increasingly dries, the forces responsible for the cold point at the tropical tropopause wither away and the descent of cold mesospheric air at the pole in winter moves the cold point upwards towards 10 hPa. This divorces the cold point from any association with ozone distribution or the distribution of water vapour and the notion of a ‘tropopause’ that happens to be conjunction-al with the cold point and the presence of very dry air in low latitudes. It is only conjunction-al in low latitudes because massive continuing uplift keeps ozone aloft. The notion of a tropopause has no meaning, and is therefore un-locatable in mid or high latitudes.

Marked differences in ozone partial pressure give rise to a very different stratosphere between winter and summer. This reflects the presence of mesospheric air and enhanced O3 in high latitudes in winter.

The pressure of photolysis on ozone diminishes as the path through the atmosphere lengthens accounting for a natural increase in ozone partial pressure with latitude and more so in winter. This sets the background level of ozone according to latitude, less at the equator and more ozone closer to the poles. But it is over the polar caps that mesospheric air establishes its presence interfering with the aforesaid pattern and via its interaction eroding ozone partial pressure throughout the stratosphere.

To reiterate and expand: The impact of NOx from the mesosphere occurs via a tongue of mesospheric air that enters the stratosphere in winter. Entry is facilitated via an increase in the velocity and mass involved in the overturning circulation driven by ozone in high latitudes (forming Polar Cyclones). Descent that represents the return arm of this circulation occurs at the pole and in the mid latitudes. Ascent involving that part of the column containing ozone occurs in an ‘annular ring’ that is most intense at 60-70° of latitude and descent is apparent at 20-40° of latitude especially over cold waters on the Eastern side of the major oceans. The latter constitutes the corresponding ring like mode of descent in the mid latitudes. Because the circumference of the Earth is so much greater in the mid latitudes than it is over the polar cap the overturning circulation heads in this direction, the line of least resistance, rather than towards the polar cap. Descent over the polar cap is by comparison almost a stalled circulation in the sense that the rate of descent is very slow. If it were fast and continuous we would have much less ozone in the southern hemisphere than we do currently. The southern hemisphere would become almost uninhabitable. Fortunately for the inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere NOx rich air from the mesosphere enters the wider stratosphere at a much slower and intermittent rate across the leaky polar vortex and is replaced from above. However there is one part of the southern hemisphere where the mesospheric air tends to lean northwards and that is towards the continent of south America. In the high Andes where elevation enhances exposure to UV light, the suicide rate peaks in spring.

The rate of descent of mesospheric air, the surface area of the interaction zone, its depth of penetration and impact on the wider stratosphere across the entire globe is surface pressure dependent. The landmass of south America interrupts the formation of polar cyclones. Zones of very high surface pressure form to the East and west of the continent in the mid and high latitudes associated with the presence of very cold oceans. The tongue of mesospheric air expands in its volume as surface pressure increases over the polar cap. Surface atmospheric pressure at the pole is to some extent just a proxy for the rate of overturning of the ozone driven circulation in high latitudes and to the remaining extent a proxy for the tendency of the atmosphere to be shifted equator-wards under the impact of geomagnetic pressure wrought by the solar wind. In the long term the latter determines the issue driving ozone partial pressure one way or the other and with it surface pressure over the polar cap and in the mid altitudes. Hence the relentless loss of mass since 1948.

It is important to realize that infrared emission from the Earth is never limiting, even at the highest latitudes. That stream of energy that is available both day and night and at all levels of the atmosphere. Ozone absorbs at 9-10 µm in the peak of the energy spectrum emitted by the Earth. Ozone is most enhanced between 30 hPa and 10 hPa shading away in concentration to the limits of the mesosphere on the one hand and downwards into the lower atmosphere to an altitude that varies with latitude on the other. Because the energy flow from the Earth is inexhaustible in terms of the amount intercepted by ozone there is little difference in the temperature of the stratosphere between day and night. This is a very different situation to that at the surface where short wave energy from the sun heats only during the daylight hours and wide diurnal fluctuations in temperature are the rule. If you read that the temperature of the stratosphere is the result of the interception of of short wave radiation by the atmosphere check the credentials of the author of that statement, even though he is a co-author or even a chairman of the committees responsible for UNIPCC reports. That author is not getting to grips with the nature of the ozonosphere.

As already mentioned geography ensures that the cooling in the stratosphere over the Antarctic during the polar night is much enhanced by comparison with the Arctic. The Antarctic at 1 hPa is slightly warmer in summer due to orbital influences. The massive annual range of temperature over Antarctica due to the depression of the winter minimum is anomalous because, at the surface, it is the northern hemisphere that exhibits the greatest swing between summer and winter.   This enhanced range is mainly the result of the presence of very cold mesospheric air over the Antarctic pole in winter and its relative exclusion between December and March.

The relative absence of cold mesospheric air in southern spring of recent times has resulted in a marked increase in the temperature of the polar cap and the intensification of the southern circulation. This trend is related to the 15 hPa fall in surface pressure over Antarctica since 1948.  The decline very likely began at the turn of the nineteenth century. The process of withdrawal of mesospheric air was already well under-way in the 1940’s.  To some extent the warming of the polar cap between 65-90° of latitude is due to a narrowing of the tongue of mesospheric air due in turn to enhanced uplift closer to the margins of Antarctica as the air that is external to the vortex becomes warmer in late winter and spring, reflecting its increased ozone content. In this way atmospheric dynamics drive ozone content and the extent of the ‘ozone hole’ over Antarctica. That hole was present at the time of the earliest measurements of total column ozone by Dobson’s colleagues at the British Antarctic base situated in Halley Bay in 1956, astounding Dobson and leading him to question the validity of the measurement. It was not what was expected given the pattern that he had observed in the Northern Hemisphere. The Antarctic ‘hole’ disappeared in November at that time as it does today. Measurements of total column ozone in the following year confirmed that it was the stratosphere and not the instrument that was responsible for the difference. Students of history will remember that the use of Freon in air conditioning and domestic refrigeration only really got going in the post WW2 era.

The anomalous warming of the Antarctic stratosphere that shows up between October and December in the data for 2014 in the diagram above is a function of the sustained ozone content of the air after the period of the polar night and despite the growing impact of photolyzing solar radiation as the sun rises higher into the sky and the atmospheric path shortens. Plainly it is the rate and the extent of the descent of mesospheric air that rules the temperature regime over the Antarctic polar cap rather than the angle of the sun.

By comparison the descent of mesospheric air in the Arctic comes in fits and starts allowing the northern hemisphere to maintain a much enhanced level of ozone in the stratosphere.

Again, looking at the diagram above, the temperature of the entire stratosphere is much affected by short term dynamical processes that manifest in the Arctic in winter. The descent of mesospheric air over the Arctic polar cap has knock on effects across a very wide band of latitudes. In terms of timing, the plethora of warming events in the Arctic has a life that is independent of the march of the sun. Again, it is the dynamics within the atmosphere that determine the pattern of evolution of temperature in the Arctic.


Gordon Dobson who invented and built a spectrophotometer to measure the quantity of ozone in the atmospheric column according to the attenuation in the energy at the wave length that destroys it (and is partially used up in the process) observed that ozone affects the upper troposphere:

The chief result of these measurements at Arosa  (1932 Swizerland 46.78° N) was to show with certainty that the average height of the ozone in the atmosphere was about 22 km and not about 40-50 km as had been thought before. They also gave a fair idea of the vertical distribution, showing that the main changes took place at heights between 10 km and 25 km. This made it much easier to understand why changes in the total amount of ozone should be so closely correlated with conditions in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.

hPa Km
850 1
700 2.5
600 3.5
500 5.0
400 6.5
300 8
200 11.0
150 12.5
100 15
30 23
10 30
1 45

We may think it strange that Dobson writes about the presence of ozone affecting the upper troposphere because it is often (always) assumed that the quantity involved is immaterial. But, in fact the issue as to whether ozone is present at 10 km in the mid latitudes or not, and of significance to weather and climate, is worthy of close examination. Is the boundary between the ozonosphere and the lower atmosphere actually fuzzy?

The French balloonist deBort  had actually settled the issue at the turn of the 19th century when he observed that the ‘isothermal layer’ as he called it was encountered at  9-10km when surface pressure was low and at 12.5 km when it was high but let us not take too much account of that. He is French and we are British….and the message got awfully rusty in the effluxion of time…or did we simply regard him as a crank.

A simple method of ascertaining where ozone begins to affect the temperature of the atmosphere is to inspect the rate at which temperature falls with elevation. The rate of change of temperature with elevation is affected by the release of latent heat (predominantly a near surface phenomenon) and the presence of ozone (an upper air phenomenon), both reducing the lapse rate. In parts unaffected by precipitation or ozone heating the decline of temperature with elevation should be the dry adiabatic lapse rate of about 10°C per 1000 metres. As ozone begins to affect the temperature of the air the lapse rate should immediately fall below the dry adiabatic lapse rate…..or whatever the rate has been to that point of elevation.

At any concentration above zero ozone has the ability to raise the temperature of the air via absorption of long wave energy from the Earth and the instantaneous transfer of this energy to surrounding molecules.  At 30 hPa where the ratio between ozone and other atmospheric constituents is greatest the actual ozone content is only about 30 parts per million, well below the concentration of CO2 at 400 parts per million. But, by virtue of its uneven distribution it is responsible for the stratosphere. Strangely, when we inspect the curves there is no evidence that down radiation from an ozone rich layer causes an increase in the temperature of the air below…..but that is an entirely different type of investigation that should not distract you or me at the moment.

In an effort to locate the effective starting elevation of the stratosphere the thermal profile of the atmosphere will be mapped in 10° latitude bands between the inter-tropical convergence zone just north of the equator and the southern pole. The data is for the year 2014 available in the database that can be accessed at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl  We can delve into the distant past later on.

The inter-tropical convergence

Here the South East Trades meet the North East Trades and a line of tropical thunderstorms rings the globe, especially in the afternoon.

Because the horizontal scale is in pressure levels rather than metres the intervals on the horizontal axis are not constant. However the blue line indicates a lapse rate of 6.44°C per 1000 metres that is a true reflection of  the lapse rate between the surface and 600 hPa a distance of 3500 metres with the temperature falling 22.54°C over that interval. The red line represents a lapse rate of 6.86°C per 1000 metres that is  a true reflection of  that particular lapse rate between 300 hPa and 100 hPa where the temperature falls 48°C over 7000 metres. The dry rate of 10°C per 1000 metres can only be attained if there is a lack of warming from any source. The degree of uplift at the ITC and the presence of appreciable moisture can be assumed to reduce ozone to near zero levels below 100 hPa. Away from the ITC both uplift and moisture levels do fall away allowing ozone to penetrate below the 100 hPa pressure level and down to less than 10,000 metres in low pressure cells. Let us assume however that  ozone is not present unless the lapse rate falls below 6.86°c per 1000 metres, the slope of the red line. That is the conservative approach.

Both the blue and the red lines have the same slope in all diagrams that follow. All the diagrams have a common vertical and horizontal scale so that the slope of the blue and red lines is invariable.

There is a cold trap (about -80°C) at 100 hPa that is said to promote a dry atmosphere above this pressure level. In practice clouds do manifest in the lower stratosphere, particularly in the region of the south East Asian warm pool.  A high rate of uplift results in he sudden appearance of ozone above 100 hPa and a steep increase in temperature above that pressure level. At 100 hPa only 10% of the atmosphere by weight lies above while 90% is below.  In terms of distance there is 15 km of atmosphere below and another 15 km to get to the 10 hPa pressure level so the graph exaggerates the rate of increase in temperature with altitude above the tropopause.

At no other latitude do we see as steep an increase in temperature in the stratosphere. At no other latitude is the stratosphere as elevated at its inception.

At the poles in winter the temperature of the air falls to minus 85°C. Convection over the inter-tropical convergence keeps ozone so much at bay as to produce exactly the same temperature, -85°C at 15 km in elevation.

Notice that the month to month variation in the temperature of the stratosphere over the I.T.C. at 100 hPa and higher is greater than is seen in the troposphere below.  At 100 hPa temperature is depressed in December and elevated in August when ozone partial pressure increases strongly outside the margins of the Antarctic polar vortex. This testifies to the vigour of mixing processes in the stratosphere.

Equator to 10° south


Between the equator and 10° south latitude the thermal structure of the atmosphere is very similar to that at the inter-tropical convergence.

10-20° south


At 10-20° south latitude a slight reduction in the lapse rate above 300 hPa indicates the presence of ozone in the atmospheric profile.

A temperature of about minus 30°C at 300 hPa is common to latitudes below 20°.

At 100 hPa temperature is warmer by a few degrees than at the I.T.C. The black dotted line has a common length in all diagrams. The minimum or ‘cold point’ warms as latitude increases reflecting an increase in the ozone content of the air with increasing latitude.

20-30° south


At 20-30° south latitude where high surface pressure is the rule, the presence of ozone appreciably reduces the lapse rate above 300 hPa. At 300 hPa the atmosphere is slightly cooler than it is in the tropics.

The temperature at 100 hPa is warmer than in the tropics indicating more  ozone in the air at 100 hPa.

Between the months of August and November in late winter and spring, the ‘cold trap’ and the stratosphere in general is warmer than it is in summer indicating enhanced descent of ozone in high pressure cells at the particular time of the year when ozone partial pressure peaks outside the margins of the Antarctic polar vortex driving a shift of atmospheric mass away from the poles and towards these latitudes. An enhanced rate of descent from the stratosphere brings ozone into what has been hitherto regarded as the ‘troposphere’. If the word troposphere is intended to indicate the absence of ozone to the point where the lapse rate is unaffected then plainly we have a dilemma. The terminology is no longer appropriate to circumstances at this latitude and even less so in higher latitudes. This dilemma can be avoided if the term ‘troposphere’ is  used in reference to truly tropical latitudes and the word ozonosphere is used to indicate air that is warmed by ozone, at this latitude well below the cold point from about 300 hPa or eight kilometres in elevation, less again in zones of low surface pressure. What we have here is data for the average of high and low pressure cells at this latitude.

By virtue of its effect on cloud cover the relatively amplified increase in temperature aloft drives temperature variations at the surface. The mechanism behind the relationship between increased surface pressure anomalous warming at the surface is described in terms of anomalous increases in geopotential height and surface temperature in chapter 3 entitled ‘How the Earth warms and cools naturally’.

30-40° south30-40S

At 30-40° south latitude the presence of ozone markedly reduces the lapse rate of temperature with elevation above the 300 hPa pressure level.

40-50° south40-50S

At 40-50° south latitude the temperature of the ozonosphere at 100 hPa is considerably warmer than at lower latitudes and particularly so in winter.

The temperature at 300 hPa is very little different between 40-50° of latitude and 70-80° of latitude despite cooling at surface with increasing latitude indicating that this is indeed part of the ozonosphere. This warming occurs in the absence of mesospheric air in the summer season and more so in winter when cold mesospheric air is present. However there is obvious cooling of the ozonosphere above 100 hPa due to the influence of mesospheric air in winter the depression of air temperature increasing with elevation. Looking back we see that this trend emerged at 30-40° south latitude. The mechanism by which mesospheric air reduces the temperature of the ozonosphere beyond the margins of the polar vortex that is traditionally seen as containing it (cannot get out), involves both mixing and the chemical erosion of ozone by NOx. This process is fundamental to the long term evolution of ozone partial pressure in the ozonosphere and the temperature at the surface of the planet because it affects the Earth’s cloud albedo. It is the diminution of the flow of mesospheric air over time that has allowed ozone partial pressure to build in high southern latitudes and with it surface temperature and the volume of energy stored in the global oceans. The build in ozone partial pressure has produced a dramatic fall in surface pressure in high latitudes and a less dramatic but highly influential increase in surface pressure and energy gain in the mid latitudes.

The containment of mesospheric air within the polar vortex is an essential requirement if the Earth system is to be entirely self contained and free of influences from our highly variable local star….the sun. Certain people who wish to drive a political agenda will hang on to that notion like a dog with a bone. These people will not want to know about stratospheric processes.

At 40-50° south ozone drives a halving of the lapse rate above 300 hPa and a 10° C increase in the temperature of the cold point by comparison with latitudes only 10° closer to the equator. The lapse rate is particularly curtailed and the temperature of the cold point is particularly affected in the winter/spring period. Temperature above 300 hPa plainly relates more to polar atmospheric processes than surface temperature at this latitude.

So far as the use of the term ‘tropopause’ is concerned we must note that the ‘cold trap’ is unequivocally located in the stratosphere and is further elevated in late winter–spring (reduced descent of mesospheric air). It is warmer in winter than in summer. It is no indication of a ‘boundary’ between spheres of interest climatically. That ‘boundary’ is now to practical intents and purposes  at 300 hPa and the cold point will be lower when surface pressure is lower, as observed by the French balloonist Debort who discovered ‘the stratosphere’ in the 1890’s.  The notion of a ‘tropopause’ is devoid of content in defining the character of the atmosphere in mid latitudes and should be abandoned. The use of the term is rooted in a failure to observe the dynamics that determine the thermal structure of the atmosphere and the origins of the surface pressure regime. We abandoned the use of the term ‘isothermal layer’ as a description of the stratosphere when we found that it is by no means equal and we should abandon the use of the term tropopause and troposphere when we refer the atmosphere outside the tropics. These terms mislead and result in sloppy thinking.

At 40-50° south latitude the marked variation in the temperature of the stratosphere at 10 hPa across the year reflects the impact of the pulse in ozone partial pressure outside the polar vortex where 10 hPa temperature rises quickly to be very close to its annual peak and surface pressure falls to its annual minimum in September-October.

Seventy percent of the depth of the atmospheric column lies above the 300 hPa level at this latitude. It stretches between 8 and 30 km in elevation.

Warmer temperature in the lower stratosphere between June and October is the product of the increase in ozone partial pressure across mid and high southern latitudes in late winter-spring.   Mass transfer from the summer hemisphere and the high latitudes enhances surface pressure in the mid latitudes of the southern hemisphere in winter. The transfer of mass from high latitudes involves enhanced uplift due to ozone heating affecting the entire atmospheric column. That which ascends must descend and it does so in the mid latitudes. The rate of descent and the surface area of descending air is simply a function of the dynamics of ascent in the near polar atmosphere. Again we see a dynamic affecting the Earth’s albedo, stronger at this latitude than at 30-40° south latitude.

50-60° south


At 50-60° south we enter the domain of the ozonosphere proper. The lapse rate is diminished above 500 hPa due to appreciable ozone in the upper half of the atmospheric column.  Regional density differences in the stratosphere promote strong uplift. This is the domain of the Polar cyclone that is generated  between 50 and 70° south.  The ozonosphere drives cyclogenesis, the distribution of atmospheric mass, short and long term weather variations and the evolution of the planetary winds. The notion that the ‘troposphere’ is the ‘weather-sphere’ at these latitudes is silly. None of the circumstances that give this term relevance  in the tropics apply at 50-60° south. The surface itself is very cold. The near surface atmosphere is cold and dry. Cloud is associated with uplift at the junction of warm wet and cold dry air masses. Convection originates in the ozonosphere by virtue of the behaviour of ozone as a greenhouse gas. Heating is then assisted by the release of latent heat associated with frontal activity. Cyclones move equator-wards tending to maintain the distinctive differences that maintain their vorticity until they run out of ozone aloft and moisture below.

The ‘cold point’ that is named the ‘tropopause’ in low latitudes is located within the stratosphere in all months. In June it is found above 10 hPa. As an indicator of the ceiling for convection due to the release of latent heat of condensation it is irrelevant. Wet air never reaches this altitude. The cold point is much warmer than it is in the tropics. The air is very much drier in high latitudes and precipitation is consequently light. But the elevation of the cold point materially assists the process of convection whereby lower density air is squeezed upwards. Convection affects the entire atmospheric column rather than being confined to the atmosphere near the surface. At latitudes pole-wards of 50° south we find the true weather-sphere,. This is the domain of the roaring forties the furious fifties and the screaming sixties. The enormous forces operating aloft are muted at the surface but still rock us back on our heels.

Polar cyclones owe their origin to heating of the atmospheric column by ozone. Heating occurs at all elevations where ozone is found, both above and below the cold point. This heating is driven by long wave infra-red emissions by the Earth itself varying little between day and night, and via energy redistributed polewards by the oceans and the atmosphere so that outgoing radiation has a pattern of annual variation  much less extreme than the variation in the energy supplied in the form of short wave radiation from the sun.

In mid and high latitudes the Earth starts to act like a battery for energy storage and energy supply to the atmosphere at a relatively invariable rate. This energy performs work via the agency of ozone. That work is weather change if we are talking of short term effects and ‘climate change’ in the longer term. The stratosphere is now the ‘weather sphere’ because this is where weather is generated. The partial pressure of ozone evolves on very long time scales.

In climatology as presently taught, what happens in the lower half drives the upper half. Motions in the lower atmosphere condition the distribution of ozone in the stratosphere. This doctrine is absurd. People refer to a coupling process between the troposphere and the stratosphere. What troposphere would that be?

60-70° south60-70S

At 60-70° south latitude, the lapse rate is reduced below and above 500 hPa and we have a very warm cold point in summer and a cold point in winter that approaches the temperature of the mesosphere to which it is proximate. The temperature of the ozonosphere declines in winter due to the influence of mesospheric air that descends inside the polar vortex over the Antarctic continent. Ozone partial pressure increases strongly outside the margins of the polar vortex but the temperature of the air still falls away at 60-70° of latitude in winter.  The nature of the mesospheric air,  the variation in the exposed surface of this tongue of air and the interaction of this air with that in the ozone rich stratosphere determines the evolution of ozone partial pressure in the wider stratosphere in a process unrecognised in ‘climate science’. The tongue of mesospheric air is continually being abraded by a Jet Stream at the polar vortex and large portions escape beyond the margins of the vortex to be gradually absorbed into the ozone rich surrounding atmosphere. Jet streams are wavy discontinuous phenomena and the notion that this air is confined behind some sort of wall is …., not to put too fine a point on it, akin to a fairy tale.

The temperature  at 10 hPa rises quickly from July to be very close to its annual peak by October-November, well before midsummer. Ozone partial pressure outside the polar vortex peaks in October as the tongue of mesospheric air retracts in Spring. This is in part a function of change in surface pressure as atmospheric mass swings back to the now swiftly cooling northern hemisphere. The resulting very late accumulation of ozone despite the fact that the pole is now in full sunlight brings the temperature peak forward in time so that it is only loosely related to the angle of incidence of the sun. See the diagram below for the annual evolution of 10 hPa temperature according to latitude. This diagram represents a 1948-2014 average and conceals change that has brought the temperature peak forward over time, the subject of later chapters.

10hPa T by Lat

The accumulation of ozone in the atmosphere outside the polar vortex from mid winter through till the spring equinox relates to a diminishing influence of the tongue of mesospheric air over the pole at this time of year and the consequent enhancement of ozone partial pressure outside the vortex. As ozone partial pressure peaks the vorticity of the overturning circulation brings raw mesospheric air deeply into the lower stratosphere and an ozone hole manifests, in truth it has been growing in size since March but at this time of the year it is squeezed into a narrower profile.  This is veritably the hole in the donut. Those who talk ‘hole’ seem to be blind to the substantial donut that surrounds it. They have little appreciation of atmospheric dynamics in high latitudes. Chemists need training in atmospheric dynamics if they are to be relevant and helpful so that they avoid the unpleasantness involved in offering themselves as unwitting shills to environmental activists.

Heating of the atmospheric column by ozone results in a planetary low in surface pressure at 60-70°south latitude that is present in all months but most extreme in September/October (see below). There is no counterpart to this in the northern hemisphere, just patches of low surface pressure over bodies of water over a broad range of latitudes. Observe that all the surface heating and the release of latent heat in near equatorial latitudes is incapable of driving surface pressure to the lows seen in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, let alone the extreme pressure deficit seen on the margins of Antarctica. It is not the Hadley cell that drives the atmospheric circulation, it is not the heating and uplift in the tropics, it is heating by ozone in high southern latitudes.  Hadley cell dynamics are determined according to the extent of atmospheric shifts from high latitudes because the Hadley cell expands with surface pressure. The ring like modes that characterise atmospheric shifts are a response to the distribution of ozone in high latitudes. The mechanics of the global circulation is driven not from the equator but from the poles and the Antarctic pole in particular. This is the reason why this chapter focusses on the southern hemisphere.


Source: http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/gmd/jra/jra25_atlas/eng/indexe_surface11.htm

As noted repeatedly, the depression of the temperature of the ozonosphere over the pole in winter is due to the descent of very cold, relatively ozone deficient air from the mesosphere. This air is mixed into the mid latitude flow on the margins of the polar vortex by what is referred to as the Jet Stream that pares away at the margins of the tongue of mesospheric air. There is a knock on effect via chemical erosion of ozone by NOx species (NO, NO2) from the mesosphere. It is at 60-70° south latitude that the interaction primarily occurs. That interaction is the engine room of climate change.

70-80° south

At 70-80° of latitude the near surface air is warmer than the surface itself. Its warmth is due to transport from warmer latitudes by the westerlies and the presence of ozone throughout the profile. Slow descent is the order of movement within the atmospheric column enhanced  in the winter, when surface pressure is high and retarded or stalled completely when it is low. The lapse rate above 850 hPa is considerably flattened and in this cold desert with sparse precipitation there is little release of latent heat to contribute to that flattening. Ozone is present throughout the profile.

Practically speaking the entire profile is part of the ‘ozonosphere’ that continues into the mesosphere. Atmospheric dynamics are not related to the coupling of something that exist with  a mental construct that is locally irrelevant.

It is sometimes remarked that we do not understand the coupling of the troposphere and the stratosphere in high latitudes. I have a large dam on my property in which I swim. I have looked intensively for a Bunyip without success. We can give up looking for a tropopause in high latitudes. It’s not a favourable environment for that beast. Its far too cold and dry.

Winter air temperatures are markedly affected by the descent of very cold air from the mesosphere that operates to a schedule unrelated to the march of the sun or the duration of the polar night that runs from March 21st through to September 21st. The schedule is much affected by the overturning of the atmospheric column at and beyond the polar vortex. This phenomenon is driven by the ozone content of the air.

The cooling due to the descent of mesospheric air is episodic as is evident in the diagram below. The flip side of that coin is called a sudden stratospheric warming.  A warming occurs when surface pressure falls away, the tongue of mesospheric air retracts and the space that it formerly occupied is taken by ozone rich air. The polar vortex and the jet stream contract towards the pole, the westerlies stream further polewards and high latitudes warm accordingly. This is the ‘Arctic Oscillation/ Northern Annular Mode/Atlantic Oscillation or the SAM’ in action. Meteorologists however, with their noses very close to their weather maps, converse together talking about the waviness of the jet stream, the incidence of so called blocking events and Arctic outbreaks.60-90T


80-90° south


At 80-90° south the main dynamic affecting the temperature of the atmospheric column is the variable presence of very cold, ozone deficient air descending from the mesosphere. At this latitude it is the interaction between the mesosphere and the stratosphere and whether the air is descending or ascending that determines the temperature profile from the surface upwards.  December is the warmest month at 10 hPa due to relatively enhanced ozone in high latitudes, a near static atmospheric column gently ascending and the relative proximity of the sun bringing a 6% increase in solar irradiance by comparison with July.  There is a reversal of the circulation at 10 hPa in late December as the descent of mesospheric air finally stalls.  The cessation of a regime of vigorous interaction with mesospheric air results in a relatively invariable temperature regime from 100 hPa through to 10 hPa.  In November, very regularly from one year to the next, as the Antarctic closes up shop, the action centre shifts to the Arctic.

Enhanced descent of the atmospheric column containing ozone warms at the 600 hPa pressure level, particularly in winter/spring the cycle in temperature at this level influenced by descent rates, penetration ratios and the flux in ozone partial pressure.

At 300 hPa the Antarctic stratosphere is warmest in February reflecting enhanced long wave radiation and the temporary absence of mesospheric air from the circulation until it enters again, in March. Accordingly, the range of temperature is minimal at all levels above 300 hPa between February and March (see below).

At 850 hPa  the temperature peak is in January driven by the march of the sun.

It is plain that other than quite close to the surface, the forces responsible for temperature and ozone content of the upper and lower portions of the atmosphere are very different.

Back in the 1940s the Antarctic ozonosphere used to be conditioned by the presence of a tongue of mesospheric air throughout the year. At that time 10 hPa temperature was very much cooler than it is today.1hPa T variability10hPa variability in T

30hPa T variability

Inspecting the three diagrams above, we can infer that variability increases the closer one gets to the mesosphere. It is mesospheric air that is the source of that variability and it dances to the tune of surface pressure variation, a good indicator of the vorticity of the overturning, ozone driven circulation.


Change in the rate of uplift in the stratosphere (and descent from the mesosphere) associated with ozone heating outside the margins of the polar vortex occurs on all time scales but is most active in the month of July and August as is apparent above. It is at this time of the year that the interaction between the stratosphere and mesosphere over the Antarctic pole is most variable. The decline in the temperature of the Antarctic stratosphere at 10 hPa since 1998 indicates that mesospheric air is driving down the ozone content and the temperature of the ozonosphere at 10 hPa over time. This heralds cooling. An Earth system that is already on the cool side will become colder. Fortunately, mankind has many tools at his disposal to survive and prosper in adverse circumstances. Clothing helps. Warm slippers and thick socks keep the toes warm and we have a good supply of cheap fuel to keep interior of our shelters warm. In the absence of viable battery storage storable fuel needs to be available both day and night, when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. There is no need to fast track so called renewable energy technologies with massive subsidies at the taxpayers expense. There is no ‘carbon pollution’ problem. We are in a regime of carbon enrichment that will serve all species well, including the polar bears that will find more to eat in summer but will unfortunately have to go hungry for a longer period in winter.

A note for theorists: The temperature of the stratosphere at 10 hPa cannot vary on the time schedule and in the manner seen in the last graph according to internally generated ‘planetary waves’.  That is a logical absurdity. Yes, waves there are, but in terms of modes of causation for the temperature of the stratosphere, look elsewhere. Bottom up thinking represents a failure to grasp the reality of ozone flux over time and its relationship with surface pressure, an inability to appreciate the factors responsible for the increase in ozone partial pressure in winter and factors responsible for the variability in incursions of mesospheric air. It represents an inability to grasp the importance of NOx in mesospheric air, the dynamics behind the jet stream and the origins of the ‘ozone hole’. Bottom up thinking makes it absolutely impossible to grasp the cause of the ‘annular mode’ phenomenon. It makes it impossible to appreciate the fact that the planetary winds evolve on all time scales changing the basic parameters of the climate system. Above all, bottom up thinking makes it impossible to model the atmosphere numerically. It dooms us to failure. It opens us up to superstition and exploitation. In general, it’s a disaster. Climate change is manifestly ‘top down’.

2014 is not a typical year. Every year is different. The geography of the stratosphere evolves over time. As we will see the influence of the stratosphere is indelibly imprinted on the surface temperature record.




In this post I want to go straight to the nature of the forces responsible for surface atmospheric pressure and surface temperature. Essentially pressure and temperature are a direct response to the nature of the stratosphere in the local domain. The local domain in the stratosphere changes dramatically according to latitude and season and also over time in response to change in the partial pressure of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Unfortunately, the role of ozone in determining surface pressure, temperature and wind is unrecognised in climate science. This will change.


Gas molecules have weight. The greater the number of molecules in a column of air the greater will be the pressure measured at the surface.

Imagine you are ascending in a balloon and you have an instrument on board that measures atmospheric pressure. At the surface it indicates a pressure of 1000 hPa (or 1 Bar or 1000 millibars or 29.53 inches of mercury).  You watch the needle falling as you ascend.  At 500 hPa with half the atmosphere below and half above you ascertain that your elevation is 5600 metres.  Each time you perform this exercise you get a different figure because the atmosphere is subject to warming that changes its density. If today’s height is 5600 metres and the average is 5500 meters you know the lower half is warmer than normal. The height of a pressure level measured in metres is called its geopotential height. Geopotential height is a proxy for air density below the point of measurement. It is also a proxy for surface pressure with pressure increasing as geopotential height increases.

Air density varies with temperature and moisture levels. The contribution of moisture is most important in low latitudes and close to the surface of the planet where humidity is high. It has little importance in the stratosphere where the air is very dry.

Imagine a column of gas contained within a cylinder that stretches from the surface of the Earth to well beyond the limits of the atmosphere. The gas inside is held in close embrace due to the gravitational attraction of the Earth. The cylinder is open at the top. When the air is heated it rises up in the cylinder but cannot spill over. In this situation surface pressure can never change.

The atmospheric column inside that cylinder could be heated at its base, in the middle or in the upper half. Let’s imagine that the energy could be retained in the zone where the heat was applied. If heating was applied in the bottom or the middle of the column the half way point would move upwards. If the heating was applied to just the upper half of the column then the geopotential height at 500 hPa should not change. Height would increase at all points above 500 hPa but not below. If we find that the 500 hPa level is elevated we can deduce that, despite our intention to heat only the upper half of the column, somehow, energy travelled downwards into the lower half.


If the glass cylinder was just high enough to contain the air prior to heating the column, some of the molecules would spill out of the top of the cylinder as heat was applied.  It matters not where the heat is applied. Then, surface pressure as measured at the bottom of the cylinder would diminish.  This is what happens in high latitudes where ozone causes heating of the upper part of the atmospheric column producing Polar Cyclones. The heating is substantial because to produce low surface pressure (let alone the planetary minimum that is actually achieved) it has to compensate for the fact that the lower part of the column is cold and almost as dense as it is possible to achieve on Earth, and then some.  Atmospheric pressure at the surface can be driven down to 980 hPa. In the process, and because this phenomenon occurs over the entire latitude band 50-90° south a loss of atmospheric pressure in high latitudes represents a transfer of atmospheric mass to other latitudes. When air exits the cylinder, it finishes up somewhere else.

Cyclones that develop in the tropics are called warm core cyclones.  Cyclones that develop under a warm stratosphere are mistakenly called cold core cyclones, referring to the temperature of the air at the surface. Some cyclones form in the stratosphere and do not penetrate into the troposphere. No cyclone can ever be born without a warm core somewhere. The uniqueness of the Polar cyclone is that its warmth is generated aloft.  You can start an updraught in a chimney with a candle at any elevation.

The Polar Cyclone is a product of the presence of ozone throughout most of the atmospheric profile. This is especially so in winter and most intensely in the southern hemisphere in particular. The associated uplift in the lower atmosphere is a response to the intensity of the forces generated aloft. Essentially, the movement of the air is no different to the convergence of air at the surface that occurs in a tropical cyclone in response to the release of  latent heat of condensation aloft, albeit, less aloft than in the polar atmosphere. That such cyclones can be generated in the polar atmosphere testifies to the energy that is transferred from the ozone molecule to the atmosphere at large. That energy comes from the Earth itself in the form of infra-red radiation.


Why is this phenomenon not recognized in climate science: Firstly, the ‘stratosphere’ is supposed to be ‘stratified and incapable of generating convection? Secondly, climate science takes little interest in the stratosphere and is obsessed with the notion that wind is driven by energy flows near the surface. Thirdly climate scientists have failed to notice that what they describe as a ‘troposphere’, a zone rich in moisture that has a cold trap that separates the troposphere from the stratosphere exists at the equator and nowhere else.  The surface is much colder at higher latitudes. The air gets drier in high latitudes. The cold point ascends into the upper stratosphere in winter and no longer constitutes the boundary between one realm containing ozone and another that does not. If we want to discern a boundary between a realm that has no ozone and one that does, we need to look at some other metric, (for example the rate of temperature decline with increasing altitude) to work out where that fuzzy zone is located. The further from the equator the fuzzier it will be. These are mistakes born of over-generalization and a failure to closely observe reality. Fourthly, there is a predilection to consider that the Earth system is closed to external influences after a plethora of unsuccessful attempts over a long period of time to demonstrate otherwise. The notion is that only cranks suggest that the sun could be influential in driving climate. Fifthly, there is a strong tendency for recent generations of ‘climate scientists’ to avoid speculation as to cause and effect in favour of mathematical analysis that is taken to somehow ‘account for’ things. The discovery of connections and even ‘teleconnections’ between disparate phenomena is the apparent purpose. There appears to be a lack of realization that ‘correlation does not mean causation and the lack of correlation does not mean that a causal relationship  can be ruled out.’. Maths rather than physics graduates enter this field. Sixthly, there is the failure to recognise ozone as a very unequally distributed greenhouse gas and that there is a clear signal in the surface temperature record that unequivocally implicates ozone as the generator of temperature variations at the surface of the Earth.  But most critically and disappointingly there is the notion that ‘the science is settled’. That represents either complacency or a determination  to force a particular viewpoint.


Ozone absorbs radiation from the Earth itself at a wave length of 9-10 um. One um is one millionth of a metre in length. This unit is called a ‘micron’ or a ‘micrometre’. Radiation from the earth is heavily concentrated around that wave length. The radiation from the sun arrives in a wide spread of wave lengths of which a small portion is in the infra-red spectrum. In the atmosphere outgoing radiation is closely focussed about the wave length that excites ozone. At the outer limits of the atmosphere we can detect how much ozone is in the air by measuring the attenuated energy that passes by at particular wave lengths. At 9-10 um t’s never entirely used up and is in effect inexhaustible given the tiny concentration of the gas that it excites.


In low latitudes the atmospheric column is warmer in the lower portion and colder aloft due to the relative deficiency in ozone. The increase in density aloft has to be substantial to compensate for the low density below so that surface pressure gets to be on average much higher. Accordingly there is much less ozone in the stratosphere above high pressure cells. The portion of the upper atmosphere containing ozone is smaller in vertical extent in high pressure cells (above 300 hPa) than low pressure cells (above 500 hPa) so that helps.


A polar cyclone that is formed in the stratosphere in winter causes ascent throughout the atmospheric column. Air that rises must be balanced by air that descends. Ozone change in high latitudes is quickly propagated to lower latitudes where the change is muted due to the increasing radius of the Earth as one approaches the equator. In the mid latitudes enormous high pressure cells convey ozone into the lower atmosphere, raising its temperature, evaporating cloud as surface pressure increases. The increase in temperature is tied to the increase in pressure due to the shift in atmospheric mass from high altitudes, in turn due to episodic heating of the high latitude stratosphere tied in turn to a reduction in the rate of ingress of NOx from the mesosphere via the polar vortex.

The implications are: the stratosphere drives weather and climate on all time scales. We need to work out what drives the stratosphere.

Is anything not clear? Please tell me if its not……could be the result of a dyslexic impulse on my part.


From the outset let me say that my investigations suggest that the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ is not something that we have to contend with in atmospheric reality. There is another mode of climate change that appears to be responsible for the change in the temperature of the globe over the period of record. That mode of change is capable of explaining variations in both the short and long term in both directions,  both warming and cooling. It can explain warming in one place and simultaneous cooling in another. In short it is very well adapted to explain the climate changes that we observe from daily through to centennial time scales ……. and to do so, exclusively and completely.


Geopotential height is a measure of the elevation of a pressure level in the atmosphere. Low heights indicate low pressure zones where the lower atmosphere is dense and cool. High heights indicate a high pressure zone where the lower atmosphere is warm and relatively rarefied.

At a surface pressure of 1000 hectopascals (hPa) the 500  pressure level is located at 5 kilometres in elevation. The upper half of the column (above the 500 hPa level) runs from 5 km through to the limits of the atmosphere at about 350 km. But 98% of the upper portion is located between 500 hPa and the 10 hPa pressure level that is found at an elevation of just 30 kilometres. You can walk 30 km in six hours, jog there in three or get there by bicycle in an hour and a half. From a good vantage point in clean air you can see objects that are 30 km away. As surface dwellers we tend to imagine that the atmosphere is vast. Its not.

Below, we have a representation of the temperature of the atmosphere above the equator in 2015. Notice the location of the 500 hPa and the 10 hPa pressure levels, the gradual decline in temperature from the surface to the 100 hPa pressure level and the very gradual increase above that level. That temperature increase is due to the presence of ozone that, as a greenhouse gas, is excited by long wave radiation from the Earth. Importantly, the change in the temperature in the upper levels is not smooth, its perturbed, and if we were to look at the data across the years and decades we would see strong variability.

This is the situation at the equator where the influence of ozone cuts in at about 15 kilometres in elevation.At the poles it cuts in at half that elevation.

atmosphere over equator

Gordon Dobson who first used a spectrophotometer to measure Total Column Ozone noticed that the distribution of ozone varies with surface pressure. Specifically, the atmospheric column where surface pressure is low is composed of a lower portion that is cold and dense. Low pressure cells originate in high latitudes where the near surface air is cold and dense.  But, the upper portion is rich in ozone to the extent that the number of molecules in the entire column is reduced giving rise to low surface pressure. The paradox is that cold dense air in the lower part of the atmospheric column is accompanied by warmer, relatively less dense air aloft. It is the inflation of the upper half of the atmospheric column, due to its ozone content, that is responsible  for low surface pressure.

Based on Dobson’s observations we can suggest a rule of thumb. It is this: The variation in the density of the upper half of the atmospheric column, due to its ozone content, accounts for variations in surface atmospheric pressure. You might not realise it at this point but this observation turns climatology, as we know it today, precisely on its head. Let me reiterate the point in a different form of words. The ozone content of the upper air drives surface winds. Here is another formulation: The character of the troposphere is determined in the stratosphere.

This was the interpretation of the atmosphere that was gaining ground prior to the 1950’s. But the world of climate science turned from observation towards mathematical abstraction in the 1960’s and has never looked back to take into account observational realities.


High pressure cells are found mainly over the oceans in the mid latitudes. They create clear sky windows. The surface warms because more sunlight reaches the surface rather than being reflected by clouds. Surface pressure is high because of a deficiency in ozone in the more extensive upper half of the atmospheric column that is accordingly relatively dense. Despite relatively low density in the lower part of the column, the enhanced density of the upper half of the column renders the weight of the entire column, and therefore surface pressure, superior.

Surface pressure is intimately associated with surface weather and climate. Surface pressure governs the planetary winds. It follows that the planetary winds evolve according to change in the ozone content of the upper half of the atmospheric column. Yes, in the terms that we are fond of employing, the stratosphere is the troposphere. The stratosphere is where weather and climate is determined. As Gordon Dobson observed back in 1924, weather   evolves according to the ozone content of the air. But the significance of his observation  was lost on those who replaced him. His successors were not observers but ideologues. The account of climate science became a servant of people with a social agenda is told here.

Indeed, the relationship between geopotential height,  surface pressure and surface temperature is intimate. In 2002 Polanski  found that he could accurately reconstruct 500 hPa heights using just sea level pressure and surface air temperature data. He noted that the reconstruction  was more accurate in winter and in mid to high latitudes where variability in both surface temperature and pressure is greater. The reconstruction was less accurate in low latitudes and indeed wherever variability in surface temperature and pressure is low. You can see an account of Polanski’s research here:(http://research.jisao.washington.edu/wallace/polansky_thesis.pdf). This is an excellent instance of deduction from result back to cause. At this point, just remember that surface pressure, geopotential height and surface temperature are linked with surface temperature a product of pressure and geopotential height.


Now to the nitty-gritty of surface temperature variation….climate change:

The three maps below show:

  1. The spatial distribution of geopotential height anomalies in January 2015
  2. Anomalies in the temperature in the lower troposphere in January 2015
  3. Surface temperature anomalies in January 2015500hPa heightsLT Jan 2015

GISS Surface temperature January 2015Map Sources: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/maps/    http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/sotc/drought/2015/01/hgtanomaly-global-201501.gif, http://nsstc.uah.edu/climate/  http://nsstc.uah.edu/climate/

The first map shows geopotential height anomalies. The second map indicates that the lower troposphere is indeed anomalously warm where 500 hPa heights are anomalously elevated.  The third map indicates that the surface is anomalously warm where heights are anomalously elevated. Remember that high heights indicate a high pressure zone where the lower atmosphere is warm and relatively rarefied.This gives rise to a rule of thumb that accords with common sense and daily observation. The surface warms when atmospheric pressure increases, the air warms and cloud cover falls away. 

The question arises: What causes atmospheric pressure to increase in the mid latitudes. The short answer is a persistent shift in atmospheric mass from high latitudes, especially from the winter hemisphere where ozone proliferates reducing the density of the upper part of the atmospheric column and  so reducing surface atmospheric pressure. For those of you familiar with the notion of the ‘Annular Modes’ or its northern hemisphere manifestation, the ‘Arctic Oscillation’ or perhaps the North Atlantic Oscillation I am here describing the causation of all these phenomena. All involve a change in the relationship between surface pressure in the mid latitudes and that in high latitudes. These are recognised as the dominant modes of natural climate change on all time scales…..cause unknown!


The figure below shows the evolution of temperature at the surface, 600 hPa, 300 hPa and 200 hPa over the Indian Ocean between Africa and Australia at latitude 30-40° south over the period 1976 through till December 1990. In order to facilitate comparison at very different temperatures the data is shown as anomalies with respect to the 1948-2015 average.

Air T in a column

Source for both graphs, above and below: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl

It is plain that the higher the elevation the more wildly does the temperature gyrate and not always in concert with the air at the surface.This is also apparent when we compare anomalies in temperature near the surface and at 600 hPa as seen below.Indian Ocean surface and 600hPa T

Plainly, the variation of the temperature at the surface does not explain the variations at 600 hPa. Temperature at 600 hPa is affected by the ozone content in the upper half of the atmospheric column. The ozone content of the stratosphere is determined in the upper atmosphere in interaction with the mesosphere (where the ozone content and the temperature of the air diminishes with increasing altitude) and the ionosphere where short wave solar radiation ionises the atmosphere making possible the formation of ozone and other compounds injurious to ozone).

Indeed, it is un-physical (an impossibility) that a small temperature increase at the surface could be responsible for a greater temperature increase aloft. The upper air is independently warmed by ozone that absorbs long wave radiation from the Earth. Warming and cooling of the air aloft is independent of change in the temperature of the air at the surface and the prime determinant of surface atmospheric pressure (our first rule of thumb) and surface temperature.

To reiterate: High pressure cells are characterised by down-draft.  Air can hold water vapour according to its temperature. Descending air is warming due to increasing compression. Descending air will not produce cloud. To the extent that the  atmospheric column has  cloud it will thin as the air warms.This is why our second rule of thumb works so well. To remind you here it is again: The surface warms when atmospheric pressure increases and cloud cover falls away. 

It follows that surface temperature in the mid latitudes,  a zone inhabited by high pressure cells, much subject to minute variations in surface pressure as atmosphere shifts to and from the poles , very much depends on the ozone content of the air aloft.


The explanation given for the origin of warming in the mid latitudes via loss of cloud cover does not explain warming in the total darkness of the polar night that is pretty obvious in the third diagram above. Why is it so? The mode of causation follows from the minute increase of pressure in mid latitudes and a dramatic fall in high latitudes. It involves the replacement of  cold with warm air. Lower surface pressure in higher latitudes and higher in the mid latitudes involves a change in the origin of the air that always flows from high to low pressure. The solar energy that accrues in low latitudes is constantly being redistributed to higher latitudes via the movement of the air. Exaggerate the movement from the equator to the pole by changing the surface pressure relationship and the pole warms.

The variation in the ozone content of the air in high latitudes, occurring in winter time is the source of change in cloud cover in the mid latitudes. It is also the origin of changes in the winds according to change in the pressure gradient between the equator and the pole. All we need to do to change the average temperature of the surface of the Earth is re-distribute the warmer air.


Dobson’s observation that surface weather varies with total column ozone is a vital clue that leads us to an explanation of the origins of the natural variation in climate. Accordingly we should look carefully at the influence of ozone on the temperature and density of the upper air. Specifically, we must ascertain the particular altitude at which the presence of trace amounts of ozone begins to affect the temperature of the air (and therefore cloud cover) and whether and to what extent that altitude varies with latitude? The answer will lead, in time, because nothing happens as quickly as we might like it to happen, to a revolution in our understanding of the Earth system upon which man depends for his sustenance.

If an increase in the ozone content of the upper air can cause the temperature of the air to increase at the surface of the planet on a month to month basis then we must examine the long term evolution of the ozone content of the air to explain surface temperature change on annual, decade and longer time scales. Equally, we can study the evolution of surface pressure over time that tells us where the wind is coming from. Or indeed, we can simply study the change that occurs in the speed of the wind because that is related to its ability to convey energy from warm to cool locations.These are the central concerns of this work.

Quantifying change due to natural causes is an essential pre-requisite  to the determination of whether in fact, as is widely believed, man is spoiling his nest via the emission of so called ‘greenhouse gases’.

It appears to me, via a close examination of the surface temperature record across the globe that there is no background level of temperature increase that is underpinning the temperature increase (and decrease) that varies so widely (and so naturally) according to hemisphere, latitude, location and season. That natural mode of change is what we need to explain.If we don’t, we will be at the mercy of of  those who want to attribute any and every change to the works of man in order to promote their own, in many instances, expensive and damaging agendas.