Ozone layer keeps thinning out despite decades of protection

Ozone layer keeps thinning out despite decades of protection

After that, the layer has been recovering from damage at the poles.

"But while the banning of CFCs is leading to a recovery at the poles, the same does not appear to be true for the lower latitudes". New research indicates that the ozone layer, which wraps around the entire Earth, is thinning over non-polar areas. The cause is now unknown. It is produced in tropical latitudes and distributed around the globe.

The ozone layer forms in a section of the atmosphere which is called the stratosphere.

Thirty years after nations banded together to phase out chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone, the gaping hole in Earth's ultraviolet (UV) radiation shield above Antarctica is shrinking.

The hole in the ozone at the end of the Antarctic winter of 2017 was the smallest its been since the 80s. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol helped to phase-out of CFCs and that was the first sign of recovery of the layer.

CFCs and the other gases were banned under an worldwide agreement, the Montreal Protocol, and since then parts of the layer have been recovering, particularly at the poles.

While ozone layer in the polar region is recovering from past thinning, scientists detected a drop in the amount of ozone in recent years at lower levels of the stratosphere in nonpolar regions, according to a study led by 22 scientists at research centers in the United States and Europe, per the Journal.

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Prof Joanna Haigh at Imperial College London and a member of the worldwide research team stated, "The study is in lower to mid-latitudes, where the sunshine is more intense, so that is not a good signal for skin cancer". The decreases in ozone are less than we saw at the poles before the Montreal Protocol was enacted, but UV radiation is more intense in these regions and more people live there. "This anthropogenic ozone, which causes summer smog, partially masks the stratospheric decline in the satellite measurements", said Ball. The reason for the falling ozone at lower latitudes is not known, though scientists suspect a chemical used in paint stripper and a change in atmospheric circulation caused by climate change. One is even used in the production of an ozone-friendly replacement for CFCs.

William Ball, an atmospheric researcher at ETH Zurich and the first author of the study, explains that this had been so hard to demonstrate, because so-called "summer smog" caused by human activity "masks the stratospheric decline in the satellite measurements".

'Very short-lived substances could be the missing factor in these models'.

It was thought that very short-lived substances would not persist long enough in the atmosphere to reach the height of the stratosphere and affect ozone, but more research may be needed.

Today's publication combines the datasets of multiple global teams, connecting information from various satellite missions since 1985. "But we have to keep an eye on the ozone layer and its function as a UV filter in the heavily populated mid-latitudes and tropics". Now, the researchers hope to gather more precise data on the decline of the ozone layer and work out the cause.

The researchers say the focus now should be on getting more precise data on the ozone decline, and determining what the cause most likely is, for example by looking for the presence of VSLSs in the stratosphere.

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