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Ozone Hole

Finally, there is some good news on the environmental front!! After years of observation and statistical data collection, scientists are finally declaring a decrease in the size of the ozone hole over Antarctica.

The ozone layer is a layer of ozone gas (O₃) in the stratospheric layer of the atmosphere, which is about 9 to 18 miles above the earth’s surface. This layer is essentially Earth’s “Sunscreen”

protecting us from the majority of the ultraviolet rays (UVBs to be specific) from the sun. UVB

causes skin cancer, DNA mutations, cataracts, and even harms crops and marine life. Depletion

in ozone is one of the reasons for global warming as well. The more the ozone layer thins, the higher the UVB and the heat enters the earth’s atmosphere.

In the early 70s, scientists noticed the thinning and depletion of the ozone layer due to pollutants that were created by industrialization. The particularly harmful pollutant that scientists attributed this to was chlorofluorocarbons (CFC gas: which contain halides). CFCs were commonly used in refrigeration, fire suppression, foam insulation, hairspray etc. In 1985 scientists realized that

there was a hole in the ozone layer in the southern hemisphere. After understanding the dire dangers of depleting O₃, the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987 and measures were established to ban the use of CFCs. Now, after decades of phasing out ozone

depleting substances and switching to hydrocarbons that don’t have any halides, the hole is

slowly getting smaller. The ozone hole above Antarctica is the smallest it has been since

1988.

While this is good news, that doesn’t mean that the problem is solved. This is only a sign that the hole is getting smaller. The hole will still take fifty years to completely heal. In addition, if we are not cautious, then the ozone will continue to thin and the hole will get larger. More effort and

time must be put into environmental protection to make sure we can go out and enjoy nature!!

For now: “It gives us hope that we shouldn’t be afraid to tackle large environmental problems.”

-Susan Solomon, MIT professor

 

References: EPA.gov, National Geography, Nature