Ozone layer keeps thinning out despite decades of protection

07 February, 2018, 02:06 | Author: Tracy Craig
  • Ozone layer depletion EPH Zurich hydrocarbons stratosphere ozone columns CFC bans Montreal Protocol satellite measurements ozone-depleting compounds atmospheric circulation

The study was published on Tuesday in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.external link It found that the ozone layer is continuing to decline on a global scale despite decades of worldwide efforts to protect it. Scientists demonstrated this using satellite measurements spanning the past 30 years combined with advanced statistical methods.

It is clear from Antarctic data that the ozone layer is beginning to recover where it was worst affected, though it will take many more decades before it is back to its condition of the 1970s.

The new study showed that despite the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the concentration of ozone in the lower part of the stratosphere (15 to 24 km) - where the ozone layer is at its densest - has continued to decline. Since the 1970s, global ozone has been deteriorating, due to man-made chemicals.

The ozone layer, which protects life on earth from harmful ultra-violet radiation, continues to deplete on a global scale contrary to recent scientific assumptions, say an worldwide team of scientists led by researchers in Zurich. Although the global ban on CFCs has healed the ozone at the poles, it has not been able to heal layer at the lower latitudes. The cause is now unknown.

"Thanks to the Montreal Protocol, ozone in the upper stratosphere - i.e above 30 Kilometres- has increased significantly since 1998, and the stratosphere is also recovering above the polar regions", said William Ball, researcher at ETH Zurich.

Ozone layer depletion EPH Zurich hydrocarbons stratosphere ozone columns CFC bans Montreal Protocol satellite measurements ozone-depleting compounds atmospheric circulation
Ozone layer continues to DECLINE in areas of the world, scientists find – and believe it's down to climate change

But boffins discovered ozone, a substance that absorbs UV radiation from the sun, is not healing at lower latitudes between 60N and 60S. Overall, the effects balance out but this means the ozone layer over the area studied is remaining in its depleted state. "The decreases in ozone are less than we saw at the poles before the Montreal Protocol was enacted, but UV radiation is more intense in these regions".

THE ozone layer is continuing to decline in certain areas of the world, scientists have found. Climate change has been affecting the atmospheric circulation pattern which carried out ozone from the tropic. One suggestion by the authors of the paper include the use of chlorine and bromine-containing chemicals known as very short-lived substances (VSLSs), used in paint strippers and solvents. The scientists were somewhat surprised that the ozone is thinning out in the lower stratosphere because their models do not show this trend and CFCs continue to decline. "The impact of the Protocol is undisputed, as evidenced by the trend reversal in the upper stratosphere and at the poles", said Thomas Peter, from ETH Zurich. One is even used in the production of an ozone-friendly replacement for CFCs. "These short-lived substances could be an insufficiently considered factor in the models", said Ball. Now, the researchers hope to gather more precise data on the decline of the ozone layer and work out the cause.

"The study is in lower to mid latitudes, where the sunshine is more intense, so that is not a good signal for skin cancer", said Joanna Haigh at Imperial College London, a member of the worldwide research team, per The Guardian.

The study was the work of researchers from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Sweden, Canada and Finland, and included data from satellite missions, including by NASA.

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