Protective ozone layer is recovering but not over populated areas



The new study found that while ozone levels are recovering in the upper stratosphere, they are actually dropping in the lower stratosphere.

The ozone layer hole over Antarctica has been closing since the chemicals causing the problem were banned by the Montreal protocol, The Guardian noted.

This comes as a bit of a blow following the good news a year ago that the hole in the ozone above Antarctica appears to be healing thanks to a ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Since the 1970s, global ozone has been deteriorating, due to man-made chemicals.

Contrary to recent scientific assumptions, the ozone layer, which protects life on the Earth from harmful ultra-violet radiation, continues to deplete on a global scale even after decades of efforts to protect it, according to an worldwide study on Tuesday. "The ozone layer at mid-latitudes is at least as bad as it has ever been". Although previous studies had suggested a decline in lower stratospheric ozone, no one had combined satellite data to look at what was happening across such a wide swath of the globe and so far down in the ozone layer.

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Despite these increases, measurements show that the total ozone column in the atmosphere has remained constant, which experts took as a sign that ozone levels in the lower stratosphere must have declined. "To enable predictions of future ozone amounts, and to identify whether (and what) action might be needed to prevent further decreases, it is extremely important to understand what is causing the observed downward trend". "Although the Montreal protocol has done what we wanted it to do in the upper stratosphere, there are other things going on that we don't understand", Haigh said.

Study co-author Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said: "Ozone has been seriously declining globally since the 1980s". The reason behind the decline is not certain.

The cause of this decline in ozone at lower latitudes is unknown.

On the other hand, very short-lived substances (VSLSs) containing chlorine and bromine are on the rise, and could increasingly enter the lower stratosphere, for example as a result of more intense thunderstorms.

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The scientists aren't entirely sure what's causing atmospheric deterioration but suspect it has something to do with climate change shifting the pattern of atmospheric circulation and the release of very short-lived substances (VSLSs) into the Earth's atmosphere. One of such chemicals is actually used to create a CFC replacement.

Scientists had thought that VSLSs would not persist long enough in the atmosphere to reach the stratosphere and affect ozone. The study, published today in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, says that the bottom part of the ozone layer has been decreasing, and this is particularly worrying for areas for populated areas around the equator.

Today's publication combines the datasets of multiple global teams, connecting information from various satellite missions since 1985. Now, the researchers hope to gather more precise data on the decline of the ozone layer and work out the cause.

The study was the work of researchers from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Sweden, Canada and Finland, and included data from satellite missions, including by NASA.

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