Impact of long-range correlations on trend detection in total ozone

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Vyushin, Dmitry I. ; Fioletov, Vitali E. ; Shepherd, Theodore G. (2007)

Total ozone trends are typically studied using linear regression models that assume a first-order autoregression of the residuals [so-called AR(1) models]. We consider total ozone time series over 60°S–60°N from 1979 to 2005 and show that most latitude bands exhibit long-range correlated (LRC) behavior, meaning that ozone autocorrelation functions decay by a power law rather than exponentially as in AR(1). At such latitudes the uncertainties of total ozone trends are greater than those obtained from AR(1) models and the expected time required to detect ozone recovery correspondingly longer. We find no evidence of LRC behavior in southern middle-and high-subpolar latitudes (45°–60°S), where the long-term ozone decline attributable to anthropogenic chlorine is the greatest. We thus confirm an earlier prediction based on an AR(1) analysis that this region (especially the highest latitudes, and especially the South Atlantic) is the optimal location for the detection of ozone recovery, with a statistically significant ozone increase attributable to chlorine likely to be detectable by the end of the next decade. In northern middle and high latitudes, on the other hand, there is clear evidence of LRC behavior. This increases the uncertainties on the long-term trend attributable to anthropogenic chlorine by about a factor of 1.5 and lengthens the expected time to detect ozone recovery by a similar amount (from ∼2030 to ∼2045). If the long-term changes in ozone are instead fit by a piecewise-linear trend rather than by stratospheric chlorine loading, then the strong decrease of northern middle- and high-latitude ozone during the first half of the 1990s and its subsequent increase in the second half of the 1990s projects more strongly on the trend and makes a smaller contribution to the noise. This both increases the trend and weakens the LRC behavior at these latitudes, to the extent that ozone recovery (according to this model, and in the sense of a statistically significant ozone increase) is already on the verge of being detected. The implications of this rather controversial interpretation are discussed.
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