An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Humanity’s enormous emissions of greenhouse gases are shrinking the stratosphere, a new study has revealed. The thickness of the atmospheric layer has contracted by 400 meters since the 1980s, the researchers found, and will thin by about another kilometer by 2080 without major cuts in emissions. The changes have the potential to affect satellite operations, the GPS navigation system and radio communications.
The stratosphere extends from about 20km to 60km above the Earth’s surface. Below is the troposphere, in which humans live, and here carbon dioxide heats and expands the air. This pushes up the lower boundary of the stratosphere. But, in addition, when CO2 enters the stratosphere it actually cools the air, causing it to contract. The shrinking stratosphere is a stark signal of the climate emergency and the planetary-scale influence that humanity now exerts, according to Juan Anel, at the University of Vigo, Ourense in Spain and part of the research team. “It is shocking,” he said. “This proves we are messing with the atmosphere up to 60 kilometers.”
The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, reached its conclusions using the small set of satellite observations taken since the 1980s in combination with multiple climate models, which included the complex chemical interactions that occur in the atmosphere. “It may affect satellite trajectories, orbital life-times, and retrievals […] the propagation of radio waves, and eventually the overall performance of the Global Positioning System and other space-based navigational systems,” the researchers said.