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Mark P. Baldwin, Thomas Birner, Guy Brasseur, John Burrows, Neal Butchart, Rolando Garcia, Marvin Geller, Lesley Gray, Kevin Hamilton, Nili Harnik, Michaela I. Hegglin, Ulrike Langematz, Alan Robock, Kaoru Sato, and Adam A. Scaife


The stratosphere contains ~17% of Earth’s atmospheric mass, but its existence was unknown until 1902. In the following decades our knowledge grew gradually as more observations of the stratosphere were made. In 1913 the ozone layer, which protects life from harmful ultraviolet radiation, was discovered. From ozone and water vapor observations, a first basic idea of a stratospheric general circulation was put forward. Since the 1950s our knowledge of the stratosphere and mesosphere has expanded rapidly, and the importance of this region in the climate system has become clear. With more observations, several new stratospheric phenomena have been discovered: the quasi-biennial oscillation, sudden stratospheric warmings, the Southern Hemisphere ozone hole, and surface weather impacts of stratospheric variability. None of these phenomena were anticipated by theory. Advances in theory have more often than not been prompted by unexplained phenomena seen in new stratospheric observations. From the 1960s onward, the importance of dynamical processes and the coupled stratosphere–troposphere circulation was realized. Since approximately 2000, better representations of the stratosphere—and even the mesosphere—have been included in climate and weather forecasting models. We now know that in order to produce accurate seasonal weather forecasts, and to predict long-term changes in climate and the future evolution of the ozone layer, models with a well-resolved stratosphere with realistic dynamics and chemistry are necessary.

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