March 18, 2018

Record damage to Arctic ozone layer

Ozone levels chart. Blue is not good and it covers a lot of the northern parts of Europe and North America.

The ozone layer above the Arctic has suffered record damage. In the year to the end of March, 40 percent of the ozone in the stratosphere has been destroyed.

This is due to cold weather in the upper atmosphere and the continuing damage of years of ozone depleting industrial chemicals.

For years ozone depletion has been a huge issue in the Antarctic, but now it is a factor in the north as well. The big difference is that the ozone hole over the antarctic is largely in unpopulated areas.

A large ozone hole over the Arctic over the last month has resulted in severe ozone depletion over Scandinavia, Greenland, and parts of northern Canada and Russia.

The ozone gas layer protects against ultraviolet rays from the sun. If more of these rays get through then increased skin cancer rates are the most obvious impact on humans as well as cataracts and immune system damage.

Dr Geir Braathen of the World Meteorological Organization says “with no ozone layer, we would have 70 times more UV than we do now.” In simple terms “the ozone provides a sunscreen of factor 70.”

The ozone depleting industrial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are restricted by the United Nations, Montreal Protocol, but they last so long in the atmosphere that damage is expected to continue for decades.

“The Montreal Protocol actually works, and the amount of ozone-depleting gases is on the way down, but quite slowly,” said Dr Braathen.

In polar regions, the concentration of ozone-depleting substances has only fallen by about 10% from the peak years before the Montreal Protocol took effect.

Projections suggest that the Antarctic ozone hole will not fully recover fully until 2045-60.

The ozone hole over the Arctic is a lot more uncertain because continuing excessively cold winters are making the situation very volitile. Scientists are working to understand why the winter temperatures are dropping.

Newswarped applauds all the scientists who warned for years over the dangers of damage to the ozone layer. At times they were ridiculed but with perseverance they finally got the attention of the politicians and something was done.