Stratospheric cooling?

One consequence of Earth undergoing greenhouse-caused warming would be a cooling stratosphere.  It i often claimed that the stratosphere, specifically the lower stratosphere, has in fact been cooling, thus confirming the enhanced greenhouse effect hypothesis.  Skeptics refute this claim in two ways: the cooling was caused by ozone depletion; and the cooling has now stopped.

Proponents of the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect theory suggest that the observed stratospheric cooling has been the product of both ozone depletion and a more intense greenhouse effect.

I recognize that the fact that the stratosphere hasn’t cooled for 13 years is an important point to make, especially considering the fact that month-to-month variation in stratospheric temperatures is small and thus trends are easy to extract.  Yet, I’ve never heard the point made that the only time the stratosphere seemed to cool was right after volcanic stratospheric warming episodes.  I’ve used paint to illustrate my point:

During the volcanic eruptions of El Chichon and Mt. Pinatubo, stratospheric temperature jumped and surface temperature fell.  Yet, instead of stratospheric temperatures returning to normal, they appear to have dropped significantly lower than they were before the eruption.  I’m not proposing any physical mechanism that could explain this, nor am I fully backing the idea that the volcanic eruptions caused the observed coooling.  I just thought it was worth noting.


I finally found a graph of global ozone levels (rather than Antarctic ozone levels or the size of the Antarctic ozone hole).  I’ve posted it below.

With this graph (data from here) as context, the trends in lower stratospheric temperature make sense, as caused (at least in part) by changes in ozone.  The graph appears to show diminishing ozone, with either an 11-year solar cycle!!!! or more likely the effects of bromine and chlorine released into the stratosphere by the especially intense eruptions of El Chichon and Mt. Pinatubo.


4 Responses to “Stratospheric cooling?”

  1. Kyoji Kimoto Says:

    Dear Dr.Carl Wolk:

    How do you do? I am a researcher of fuel cell and a skeptic in
    Japan. Your idea seems to me very interesting for understanding of stratosphere cooling. I would like to discuss with you more by e-mail. My critical paper will be published in
    Energy&Environment soon as to CO2 GW theory.
    Best regards,
    Kyoji Kimoto

  2. Robert J. Guercio Says:

    Why Do Greenhouse Gases Cause The Stratosphere To Cool?

    Temperature is a measurement of the translational Kinetic Energy (KE) of the particles. When CO2 and other particles collide with each other, some of the translational KE is converted into vibrational KE of the CO2. The loss of translational KE lowers the temperature and thus excites the CO2 molecules.
    Nature prefers the lowest energy state and the excited CO2 molecules give up the vibrational Kinetic Energy by returning to the unexcited ground state. In so doing they emit Infrared radiation. In the rarefied atmosphere of the stratosphere, this radiation does not impinge on stratospheric particles and simply escapes into space.

    If the CO2 level of the stratosphere increases, there are more of these reactions and the temperature is lowered.

    For a complete explanation, please see my blog:

  3. You Don’t Need To Be A Rocket Scientist To Work At NASA | Real Science Says:

    […] […]

  4. Frog Says:

    In case you didn’t have it.
    Confirm what you say

    Thnaks for post.

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