Ozone layer might be mending, says NASA

06 January, 2018, 05:28 | Author: Becky Perry
  • Ozone layer might be mending, says NASA

CFC's are long-lasting chemical substances that can rise high up into the stratosphere, where they are broken apart by radiation from the sun. Since then, the ozone layer has clearly recovered, marking a great success - one of the few but highly commendable episodes where almost all the world's countries chose to set aside their differences and work for the common good of the planet and all life that call it home. This releases chlorine atoms that destroy ozone gas - a form of oxygen.

Strahan's study is the first to look directly at measurements of chemicals to argue that the shrinking hole stems from the ban of CFCs.

Since 2005, NASA scientists have used the Aura satellite to measure ozone depletion rates during the winter months.

Using a special instrument designed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the agency's Aura satellite has measured declines in the concentration of ozone-killing chlorine. Stratospheric ozone protects life on the planet by absorbing potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and damage plant life. The latest research - published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters - suggests the ban is working. By measuring hydrochloric acid levels each fall, scientists were able to gauge the amounts of chlorine in the ozone hole. Comparing hydrochloric acid levels with nitrous oxide levels-another gas that remains in the atmosphere-they determined chlorine's decline of 0.8 percent per year. This resulted in a 20-per cent drop in ozone destruction, it said.

"This is very close to what our model predicts we should see for this amount of chlorine decline", Strahan said. Now, Strahan and colleagues report not only the first direct measurements that prove ozone depletion is decreasing but also that the decrease is caused by fewer CFCs in the atmosphere. "But we're not yet seeing a clear decrease in the size of the ozone hole because that's controlled mainly by temperature after mid-September, which varies a lot from year to year".

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An global ban on substances called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has resulted in a reduction in the amount of chlorine present in the atmosphere, which was damaging the ozone layer.

"CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years, so they linger in the atmosphere for a very long time", said Anne Douglass, co-author of the study.

Even if the results of the new study do hold true, scientists say it will take until at least 2060 for the hole in the ozone to vanish.

Given that fact, researchers believe that it could be several decades before the ozone hole is eliminated altogether.

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