The Ozone Layer is a strip of ozone gas within the earth’s atmosphere that was discovered in 1913.Most of us will remember the high drama surrounding the discovery of a hole in this gaseous layer ten or so years ago that caused a media frenzy.The reason that holes in the Ozone Layer are such a frightening concept is basically because the Ozone Layer absorbs most of the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, preventing them from hitting- and harming – human skin and damaging or warming the earth.
The layer of ozone around the earth varies in its thickness, with a thinner layer over areas around the equator and a much thicker distribution towards the two earth poles.This is why when a hole was discovered in the southern hemisphere over the Antarctic, there was such a furore, as this was meant to be one of the best protected parts of the planet.The consequences of more of the sun’s ultraviolet rays (97% more as this is the quantity the Ozone Layer absorbs) hitting the earth were serious business – from a rise in skin cancer to contributing to global warming (although Ozone Layer holes are not the main reason for global warming).
The cause of holes that began to form in the Ozone Layer is thought to be ‘free radical catalysts’ being released into the atmosphere by us thoughtless human beings.These substances include nitric and nitrous oxide and atomic chlorine and bromine.Quantities of these substances – particularly the last two – have increased markedly as industry and technology have developed; perhaps the most publicisedsource of ozone depleting compounds is chlorofluorocarbons (or ‘CFCs’) that around found in aerosol sprays.
However, you may have noticed that in the years since the hole in the Ozone Layer was discovered things have gone rather quiet on that front.Many put this down to the media simply having moved on to other big stories (terrorism etc) but there are also some out there who believe that the reason that an increase in the hole the Ozone Layer is no longer a big public issue is because the hole is not increasing.Whilst in 2009 the Ozone Layer was thought to be depleting at a rate of around 5% per year, some scientists are now stating confidently that it seems to be repairing itself.Of course, when the big ozone hole story broke, the possibility of the earth repairing this protective layer was not supposed to exist, but according to the latest scientific data this is actually what is happening – it is now such common knowledge that science bods speak of it as a done deal.
So, great news you must be thinking – that’s the end of our problems now Mother Earth has taken charge again? Well, apparently not so much, as data has suggested that in the area in the Antarctic under the Ozone Layer there appears to have been a 10% increase in ice formation, which would seem to indicate that the hole in the Ozone Layer may have been having the opposite effect than warming up the Antarctic.Scientists believe the drop in temperature that allowed the ice to formresulted from the changes brought about by the thinning in the Ozone Layer leading to increased winds in the Southern Ocean, which kept the area cool.According to data from the climate change lobby, now that the hole is closing, these winds will die down, resulting in the area warming up and a subsequent increase in ice melting, threatening the earth with raised sea levels worldwide.In the light of that, perhaps the hole in the Ozone Layer wasn’t such a bad thing after all? Well there is still apposing schools of though on the ozone layer question but one thing that virtually all scientists (and most other rational people) will agree on is that taking steps to reduce the amount we pollute our natural world can only be a good thing and any recovery we have seen to the ozone should only encourage us to take better care of our environment.
About the Author
Amy is a guest writer from Skip and Bin – a waste management company in the UK.