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Substantial twentieth-century Arctic warming caused by ozone-depleting substances
00:15, 22.01.2020

The rapid warming of the Arctic, perhaps the most striking evidence of climate change, is believed to have arisen from increases in atmospheric concentrations of GHGs1 since the Industrial Revolution. While the dominant role of carbon dioxide is undisputed, another important set of anthropogenic GHGs was also being emitted over the second half of the twentieth century: ozone-depleting2 substances (ODS). These compounds, in addition to causing the ozone hole over Antarctica, have long been recognized3 as powerful GHGs. However, their contribution to Arctic warming has not been quantified. We do so here by analysing ensembles of climate model integrations specifically designed for this purpose, spanning the period 1955–2005 when atmospheric concentrations of ODS increased rapidly. We show that, when ODS are kept fixed, forced Arctic surface warming and forced sea-ice loss are only half as large as when ODS are allowed to increase. We also demonstrate that the large impact of ODS on the Arctic occurs primarily via direct radiative warming, not via ozone depletion. Our findings reveal a substantial contribution of ODS to recent Arctic warming, and highlight the importance of the Montreal Protocol as a major climate change-mitigation treaty.

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