Oct 04, 2015

Ozone Depletion – Why It’s a Problem

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Ozone depletion image from NASAThe sun may be an important energy resource but there are some aspects about it, like ultraviolet rays, that can be downright damaging to living things, including human beings. Luckily, the ozone layer is providing the earth with a blanket of protection from these harmful rays. However, due to the activities of the human race, instead of having a thick blanket of protection, we now have a depleting ozone.

What Depletes the Ozone

While the ozone layer is a blanket of good gases in the stratosphere, there is also man-made bad ozone depleting substances (ODS) that can destroy the good natural ozone. These ODS substances, like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are often found in vehicle emissions, industrial processes, refrigerants, and aerosols. Once reaching the stratosphere, these substances actually get broken down by the UV rays of the sun, destroying the good ozone. Repercussions of some chemicals, such as CFCs, will be felt long after their use ceases as they can remain in the atmosphere for nearly 100 years after release.

So what happens when the ozone layer gets depleted?

Immediate Negative Effects… Human Health

Breathing in bad ozone can create adverse health effects. The chemicals can make it difficult to breathe, create chest pain, irritate the throat, and reduce functioning of the lungs.

When the protective layer’s UV radiation-absorbing capabilities are reduced, exposure of UV rays increases, particularly UVB, with known damaging health effects on humans. The most common of the effects are skin reddening, sunburn, and even skin cancer. Other effects of UV rays include cataracts and impairment of the immune system.

Next Stage… Greenhouse Gases

The Earth normally maintains a natural balance between energy coming in from the sun and going out from the earth’s surface. Emitting harmful chemicals into the environment adds gases, or greenhouse gases, in the atmosphere. This increased greenhouse effect changes the atmosphere’s natural composition and directly affects the climate.

As the greenhouse gases build in the atmosphere, they trap heat that would naturally escape from the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and enter into the upper atmosphere (stratosphere). These gases can stay for years in the earth’s atmosphere. As time goes by, more and more ozone gases are emitted in the atmosphere, and more heat is also retained by gas blanket. These gases also absorb and re-emit the naturally occurring outgoing energy thus creating an imbalance in the global energy flow. The result is an imbalance of a warmer surface temperature and a cooler upper atmosphere temperature.

Which Leads to… Climate Change

The cooling of the stratosphere creates unstable ozone molecules, reducing their ability to repair the ozone layer and therefore accelerating the depletion of the ozone. As more and more greenhouse gases are trapped at the surface of the atmosphere, the depletion rate of “good” ozone increases.

The warming of the troposphere creates a possible acceleration of arctic ice cap melting leaving a negative outcome on the affected ecosystem.

And Finally… Global Warming

In 2000, more than 300 NASA scientists published a report directly correlating global warming with the cooling stratosphere and the depletion of the ozone. Global warming does not necessarily mean only warmer temperatures. The stratosphere is sensitive to temperature and the atmosphere tends to migrate due to variations. Areas with an active stratosphere will experience warmer temperatures as areas with an inactive stratosphere will be cooler. The US could experience an extremely cold winter when other parts of the world are experiencing abnormally hot temperatures. The world on a whole, US being only 2%, has experienced nine of the hottest years ever in just the last ten years.

The EPA is working to reduce bad ozone and improve air quality. On the city, state and national level, programs have been implemented to meet health standards and reduce toxic emissions from motor vehicles and industrial facilities. Reformulations and substitutes are also being developed to create safer and healthier products since an improvement on all fronts can create a greater good.

(2009) Is there a connection between the ozone hole and global warming? Retrieved August 26, 2010. (photo) http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/ozone-hole-and-gw-faq.html

(2010) Ozone. Retrieved August 26, 2010. http://www.ozone.org/

(2010) Understanding UVA and UVB. Retrieved August 26, 2010. http://www.skincancer.org/understanding-uva-and-uvb.html

(2010) The relationship of Ozone Depletion and the Greenhouse Effect. Retrieved August 26, 2010. http://www.ratical.org/ratville/ozoneDepletion.html

(2010) Causes of Ozone Depletion. Retrieved August 26, 2010. http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/ozone_depletion/older/causes.html


  • Comment Link Heather Trent Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:08 posted by Heather Trent

    Okay, so I was ignorant. I heard about ozone depletion. I also heard about horrible greenhouse gases. I know there's rumbling about climate change. And who hasn't heard about global warming (especially with Indian summers). But, I just never connected the dots before now. Thanks for bringing me out of ignorance and into the know.

  • Comment Link Johnny Friday, 18 March 2011 11:43 posted by Johnny

    "The stratosphere is sensitive to temperature and the atmosphere tends to migrate due to variations." That must be why the changes in weather are so hard to track and seem random. We have had some seriously hot summers and some mild winters recently. But most recently we have a blistery cold winter with loads of snow. That doesn't seem like global warming until you realize that the atmosphere migrates and moves around. It seems like this migration gives the nay sayers some convenient credibility to the argument that global warming is hogwash. However, when you listen to a nay sayer, you have to consider why they feel that way. Maybe they are a coal miner or they are in shipping and this issue affects their income. This controversy is all very similar to big tobacco. They tried to claim the cigarettes didn't cause cancer and that they had no definitive proof but we all know how that one ended.

  • Comment Link shan hasan Tuesday, 05 June 2012 03:31 posted by shan hasan

    its nice but there should be a little more about it.

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