Radioisotopes demonstrate changes in global atmospheric circulation possibly caused by global warming

Lucrezia Terzi, Gerhard Wotawa, Michael Schoeppner, Martin Kalinowski, Paul R.J. Saey, Philipp Steinmann, Lan Luan, Paul W. Staten

Research outputpeer-review


In this paper, we present a new method to study global atmospheric processes and their changes during the last decade. A cosmogenic radionuclide measured at ground-level, beryllium-7, is utilized as a proxy to study atmospheric dynamics. Beryllium-7 has two advantages: First, this radionuclide, primarily created in the lower stratosphere, attaches to aerosols that are transported downwards to the troposphere and travel around the globe with the general atmospheric circulation. By monitoring these particles, we can provide a global, simple, and sustainable way to track processes such as multiannual variation of the troposphere, tropopause heightening, position and speed of atmospheric interface zones, as well as the poleward movement and stalling patterns of jet streams. Second, beryllium-7 is a product of cosmic rays which are themselves directly linked to solar activity and the earth magnetic field. This study shows whether beryllium-7 observed concentration changes are correlated with such natural processes or independent of them. Our work confirms that major changes in the atmospheric circulation are currently ongoing, even though timeseries are too short to make climatological assessments. We provide solid evidence of significant and progressive changes of the global atmospheric circulation as well as modifications of tropopause heights over the past decade. As the last decade happened to be the warmest on record, this analysis also indicates that the observed changes are, at least to some extent, attributable to global warming.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10695
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020

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