Global Plan To Fix Ozone Hole Is Working

Global Plan To Fix Ozone Hole Is Working”

Discovery of the hole in 1985 elevated concerns about damage to the ozone layer, the invisible barrier in the Earth's stratosphere that protects humans from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Later amendments to the Montreal Protocol completely phased out production of CFCs.

Previous attempts at charting the ozone layer's ebb and flow have centred on the physical size of its hole, so this study marks an exciting deviation from conventional monitoring. These compounds include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform.

Strahan said the recovery would continue at a slow pace because CFCs are long-lived molecules that persist in the atmosphere for decades.

Atmospheric scientist and lead author Susan Strahan from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt in Marylandm said in a statement that, "We see very clearly that chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it". When Antarctica is bathed in sunlight in the Southern Hemisphere's summer, CFCs break down and produce chlorine, which then break apart ozone atoms.

"During this period, Antarctic temperatures are always very low, so the rate of ozone destruction depends mostly on how much chlorine there is", Strahan said.

NASA’s *Aura* satellite which measures atmospheric chemical compositions
NASA’s *Aura* satellite at about 705 km above the Earth measures atmospheric chemical compositions

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.

In 1987, in what was heralded as a major diplomatic feat, the world's countries came together in Canada to sign the Montreal Protocol, an global treaty aimed at gradually eliminating the production of ozone-depleting substances. By measuring hydrochloric acid levels each fall, scientists were able to gauge the amounts of chlorine in the ozone hole.

New measurements show that the decline in chlorine-resulting from an worldwide ban on manmade chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)-has resulted in about 20 percent less ozone depletion during the Antarctic winter than there was in 2005, the first year measurements were made by NASA's Aura satellite. Chlorine is hard to measure, but when it's run out of ozone to eat, chlorine molecules react with methane to form hydrochloric acid, which is easier to measure. "As far as the ozone hole being gone, we're looking at 2060 or 2080". Mercifully, a recently published study has confirmed positive news after it showed the hole is indeed healing, with new techniques revealing just why that is.

Study's co-author and a fellow atmospheric scientist from the Goddard, Anne Douglass said that, "CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years, so they linger in the atmosphere for a very long time". "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".

This article has been updated with additional information about the NASA study and context about decreasing ozone-depleting substances.

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