Do you remember the good news about the atmosphere that was released last month? I caught the news in my daily headline feed from NASA September 10th. The mainstream news dropped it into newscasts around the first of this month.
300 top scientists agree that the Earth’s ozone layer is in the early stages of recovery. Full restoration is expected by around 2050. This first glimmer of good news is published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the latest comprehensive update.
Most of the credit goes to the worldwide phase-out of ozone depleting substances, especially a family of Freon-type gases called chloroflourocarbons or CFCs. As long as we continue to comply with the Montreal Protocol (treaty) of 1987, the ozone layer is expected to recover to 1980 levels. This is expected to happen before mid-century in the Arctic and middle-latitudes. Recovery in the Antarctic Zone will probably happen a few years later.
Looking back to the mid and late 1980s, space meteorologists, and environmental scientists stated that ozone-depleting substances pumped around 10-gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent eemissions into the atmosphere every year. Between then and now, compliance with the Montreal Protocol has dropped the volume of those pollutants by over 90-percent.
Of greatest concern has been the annual fluctuations in the Antarctic ozone hole in the lower Stratosphere. UNEP says that ozone depletion is a major contributor to the cooling of the lower portion of the Stratosphere and has caused a change in the surface air circulation patterns during the Southern Hemisphere’s summers. These changes affect precipitation, ground temperature, and the oceans.
Many of us have been seriously thinking about the ozone layer in the Earth’s atmosphere since the Autumn of 1986. British scientists observed the thinning of the ozone above Antarctica. This phenomenon was then confirmed by US researchers stationed at Antarctica. The scientists called the thinning a “hole” that had appeared within a couple of months. The scientists and researchers released the news to the public via a National Science Foundation press conference in Washington D.C. on October 21, 1986.
They were concerned over the ozone decrease of 40-percent within one month’s time. The teams linked the ozone loss to our use of cholorofluorocarbons in aerosol cans, refrigeration, and industry. The first link of CFCs to ozone layer loss happened in 1974. Two California scientists discovered the chlorine that is released from CFCs destroys ozone molecules.
The enlarging and shrinking of the ozone hole is a seasonal occurrence at around this time each year in the Southern Hemisphere. The greater size of the hole has been getting worse during the last few decades. Dr. Sherwood Rowland stated that a yearly increase in chlorine-compounds in the atmosphere corresponds to the drop in ozone over Antarctica.
We have cause for worry, because the ozone layer is the main barrier to protect life on Earth from hazardous amounts of Solar ultraviolet radiation. Increased UV sunlight has been shown to harm plants and marine life, it also causes more cases of skin cancer. CFCs are also another greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. Some experts say that the fluctuations over Antarctica might be nature’s way of warning mankind.
Meantime, there remains the vast problem of global climate change and our part in its alleviation. We all have our work cut out for us.
The Blue Jay of Happiness has a Carl Sagan quotation, today. “The hole in the ozone layer is a kind of skywriting. At first it seemed to spell out our continuing complacency before a witch’s brew of deadly perils. But perhaps it really tells of a newfound talent to work together to protect the global environment.”