St Petersburg University has opened a Laboratory for the Research of the Ozone Layer and the Upper Atmosphere. The laboratory will focus primarily on research and education in forecasting how the ozone layer is going to develop in the short-term perspective (up to one month) and long-term perspective (up to 200 years) as a result of undergoing natural and anthropogenic factors, climate change, and space weather events.

The project is supported by the mega-grant from the Government of the Russian Federation.

Before the industrial era, the evolution of the ozone layer that protects the biosphere and people from harmful ultraviolet radiation was mainly affected by natural factors. This is according to the research director of the new laboratory, Evgeny Rozanov, who is the head of the climate modelling group at the Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos/World Radiation Center (PMOD/WRC) in Switzerland.  Since the 1970s, anthropogenic activities, emissions of greenhouse gases, and ozone depleting substances have led to a catastrophic decrease in ozone concentration at high latitudes and negative trends on a global scale.

'In the late 1980s, the Montreal Protocol was adopted to limit the production of ozone depleting substances. This international treaty and its amendments helped change the situation and neutralise negative factors. Today, the measurements show that although the measures were taken to limit the anthropogenic impact on the ozone layer, its recovery is nevertheless slower than expected, and in some regions gradual thinning of the Earth's ozone layer is still underway. The situation is worsened by the large and deep ozone hole opened over the Arctic in 2020, mini-ozone holes in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and violations of the protocols that were designed to reduce emissions of ozone depleting chemicals,' says Evgeny Rozanov.

Having to deal with negative trends in the ozone layer evolution calls for opening a special research laboratory that will adopt an integrated approach to the study and forecasting of atmospheric processes. It includes both: monitoring the current state of the ozone layer and other important atmospheric gases; and mathematical modelling of a variety of processes, including chemistry, dynamics and transport of substances and energy in the atmosphere.

To implement such ambitious plans, it is necessary to create a model to adequately respond to changes in anthropogenic, solar, volcanic, and geomagnetic activity.

Evgeny Rozanov, Research Director of the new laboratory

'By doing so, we will produce new data in diagnostics and forecasting of anthropogenic impact, significantly exceeding those available today in the world, and methods for solving these global problems. In Russia, there have been no organisations to conduct high-quality research in this sphere,' said Evgeny Rozanov.

The idea of ​​opening the laboratory appeared in 2019 after a discussion of the issues relating to the ozone layer evolution by Evgeny Rozanov and specialists at the Department of Physics of Atmosphere and the Department of Physics of Earth at St Petersburg University. An application for the mega-grant programme of the Government of the Russian Federation was supported in 2020, and the laboratory was opened in summer 2021.

Among the key tasks of the Laboratory for the Research of the Ozone Layer and the Upper Atmosphere:

  • To conduct and analyse the ground-based and satellite measurements of ozone, ozone depleting substances (ODS), and the state of the atmosphere
  • To assess past and predict future behaviour of the ozone layer by using state-of-the-art photochemistry and climate models that take into account various effects, including variability of greenhouse gases and ODS
  • To develop a new atmosphere-ionosphere-magnetosphere model and use it to study the influence of space weather on the ozone variability
  • To analyse medium-term ozone variability caused by disturbances in atmospheric dynamics and space weather

The laboratory is located in the St Petersburg University educational and research complex in Peterhof. The laboratory will study the state of the ozone layer taking into account many physical processes in all atmospheric layers from the surface to the magnetosphere, including the entire complex of heliophysical, geomagnetic, and meteorological disturbances.

Evgeny Rozanov, Research Director of the Laboratory for the Research of the Ozone Layer and the Upper Atmosphere, is one of the world-leading researchers in modelling the chemistry of the atmosphere, ozone layer, and climate. He participated in the preparation of the report of the Nobel Peace Prize 2007 for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The deputy head of the laboratory is Yuriy Timofeyev, Professor in the Department of Physics of Atmospheric at St Petersburg University. He is a world-recognised scientist in the development, implementation and use of remote sensing methods for studying the parameters of the Earth's atmosphere. Professor Yuriy Timofeyev and Professor Dr Hartmut Graßl were awarded the Max Planck International Prize (Germany). Yuriy Timofeyev made a positive contribution to the development of the physical and mathematical foundations of various remote sensing methods and their implementation in the USSR and Russia.

The project involves an intensive programme that is designed to measure the state of the atmosphere, content of atmospheric ozone, and associated gases by using ground-based and satellite methods.

A wide-ranging research bridging the earth science and near-space science is essential to conduct a complex study of the processes in the Earth’s atmosphere.

‘The Centre for Geo-Environmental Research and Modelling (GEOMODEL) at St Petersburg University has unparalleled equipment to measure gas and aerosol composition of the atmosphere and conduct various laboratory studies. We will actively use this equipment and infrastructure to conduct our experiments. Without these measurements, the physics of the atmosphere will not develop as will not our mega-grant. The equipment requires constant maintenance, calibration, and repair. To this end, we need good financial resources. Additionally, we need to purchase new unique and costly equipment to perform the tasks set in the project. Today, we are just at the starting point. Much remains to be done to ensure that the results of our work correspond to the world level,' said Evgeny Rozanov.