A new and larger hole in the ozone layer has recently been discovered, adding to environmental activists’ concerns and potentially increasing the impact of climate change on the planet.
According to a paper published in AIP Advances, the hole in the ozone layer has been located in the lower stratosphere over the tropics for the last 30 years and is seven times larger than the one over Antarctica.
The Earth’s ozone layer envelops it and protects it from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, so the discovery of the all-season hole does not bode well for the planet.
What is an ozone hole?
According to NASA, the ozone hole is a region of exceptionally low levels of the gas in the stratosphere over Antarctica that occurs at the start of the Southern Hemisphere spring (August-October).
The ozone hole is defined by environmentalists as a region where the loss of the gas is 25% greater than in the undisturbed atmosphere.
What causes the ozone hole?
According to NASA, chlorofluorocarbons cause holes in the ozone layer (CFCs). These chemicals are released into the atmosphere by refrigeration and propellant devices, among other things. According to NASA’s website, they are so stable in the lower atmosphere that they can last for years, if not decades.
Because of their long lifetime, some CFCs can eventually reach the stratosphere. Ultraviolet light in the stratosphere breaks the bond that holds chlorine atoms (Cl) to the CFC molecule. A free chlorine atom then participates in a series of chemical reactions that both destroy ozone and return the free chlorine atom to the atmosphere, where it can continue to destroy more and more ozone molecules.
In short, these CFCs release chlorine after coming into contact with the ultraviolet rays of the Sun, which ultimately destroy ozone.
The new hole and what does it mean
According to Lu, the existence of the tropical ozone hole may cause great global concern.
“The depletion of the ozone layer can lead to increased ground-level UV radiation, which can increase risk of skin cancer and cataracts in humans, as well as weaken human immune systems, decrease agricultural productivity, and negatively affect sensitive aquatic organisms and ecosystems,” the researcher said in his observation in the paper.
According to NDTV, the researcher said that the tropical and polar ozone holes play a major role in cooling and regulating stratospheric temperatures, mirroring the formation of three “temperature holes” in the global stratosphere. He said this finding may prove crucial to better understanding global climate change.
The tropical ozone hole, like the polar ozone hole, is found to be depleted of approximately 80% of the normal ozone value. According to preliminary reports, ozone depletion levels over equatorial regions are already endangering large populations, and UV radiation reaching these regions is far greater than expected.