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30 Jan 2015: Thunderstorms Move Ozone
Toward Surface of Earth, Research Shows

Nicholas/Wikimedia Commons
Thunderstorms transport ozone toward earth.
Thunderstorms move a significant amount of ozone from the stratosphere down toward the earth's surface — a process that could have important impacts on climate, according to a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Ozone shields the planet from the sun's ultraviolet rays when it's in the stratosphere, the second-lowest layer of the atmosphere, but ozone acts as a powerful greenhouse gas and pollutant when it's nearer to the earth's surface, in the troposphere. Ozone is created by a variety of chemical reactions near the surface of the earth, but a significant amount of it comes from the stratosphere. The new study shows how: Massive thunderheads, which can rise 50,000 feet above the ground, disturb the atmosphere and allow ozone to pour into the troposphere. Scientists had known that major events such as jet stream shifts caused that to happen, but they did not know that storms also play a key role. The new findings could impact climate models, the researchers say, especially since storms are expected to become more frequent and intense as the planet warms.


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