How The Ozone Layer Is Related To
The ozone layer is one of the buzzwords you’ve probably heard regarding global warming and climate change. In reality, this might be one of the most important elements in keeping global temperatures natural without human intervention.
Ahead, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that climate change and the ozone layer are related, along with the concerns that researchers have had over the years. We’ll also touch on one of the more troubling elements of the ozone layer: the ozone hole over the Antarctic.
The Ozone Layer At A Glance
There are several layers to the Earth’s atmosphere, and the Ozon layer is only one of them. The atmosphere begins at the ground at the level called the troposphere. This is where humans live, and it extends about six miles into the sky. For reference, Mt. Everest is only 5.6 miles high.
The stratosphere is next up and is where you will see planes flying overhead. This range extends past the six-mile mark up to about 31 miles.
The ozone layer is actually a part of the stratosphere, where ozone molecules are continuously created and destroyed. The goal is for the ozone layer to remain stable, which it has - for the most part - since researchers have been able to study the patterns.
What Does The Ozone Layer Do?
The first way that the ozone layer is related to global warming is by protecting us from the sun’s radiation. Without the ozone layer, the planet would be a desolate wasteland as we were pelted with the sun’s rays around the clock.
The ozone layer will absorb a good amount of ultraviolet B (UVB) rays coming from the sub as well, giving us just the amount we need without causing too much inherent harm.
Researching The Ozone Layer
Researchers have been tracking the health of the ozone layer for some time now. We have decades of data on the subject and can predict how the ozone layer should respond over time.
As we said, the ozone layer is constantly being destroyed and rebuilt. There are patterns to this, and researchers know what to look for regarding how the ozone layer will rebound. As the ozone layer naturally depletes, it comes back in full force. There are a lot of elements to this natural process, and seasons are one of them.
One of the concerning trends that researchers have observed, though, has to do with the damage humans have done to the ozone layer. The natural process is one thing, but it appears as though human intervention has started to change this process, and deplete the ozone layer more than the natural process has.
The Depletion Of The Ozone Layer
The depletion of the ozone layer is one of the most direct ways that it’s linked to global warming or climate change. The thinner the ozone layer gets, the more UVB rays are allowed to pass through. The more UVB rays there are, the warmer the planet will become on the whole.
Two of the biggest culprits here are bromine and chlorine atoms. These atoms are the ones that destroy the ozone molecules in the stratosphere and do quite a bit of damage at that. These atoms - released by humans - will deplete the molecules in the stratosphere quicker than they are naturally replenished.
The earth’s surface naturally creates the same compounds that humans end up releasing into the atmosphere, but the natural process doesn’t happen nearly as fast. We can release these atoms through the products we use and our other large-scale habits. The earth, on the other hand, will take years to release the ozone-killing chemicals that we do.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are the primary chemicals that are related to the depletion of the ozone layer. These chemicals are often found in products like aerosols, which have been banned in a few countries in response to the science behind the depleting ozone layer.
The Ozone Hole
Another key term in the relationship between the ozone layer and global warming is the ozone hole. The term is a bit misleading since there isn’t really a hole in the ozone layer that’s allowing all of the UVB rays to pass through.
Instead, this “hole” is just an area in the Antarctic where the ozone layer has significantly depleted. Researchers first caught onto this trend in the 1980s and saw that the ozone layer was depleting far quicker in this area than on the rest of the planet.
The reason for this is the Antarctic’s unique climate. The CFC that make their way to the stratosphere convert to chlorine much quicker because of the regions low temperatures.
During the warmer months in the spring and summer, the sun shines on the region for extremely long periods every day, meaning the ultraviolet rays are at their peak. The combination of these two effects means that the ozone layer will deplete far quicker in the Antarctic than it does in other places of the world.
The result is the ozone “hole” that so many people reference. The ozone layer in this area of the world is much thinner than it is elsewhere, but there is no true “hole” involved. Still, this troubling reality is something that researchers are looking for a way to reverse.
What Happens If The Ozone Layer
Continues To Deplete?
We touched on this briefly above, but the ozone layer is one of the primary reasons humans can occupy this planet. The Ozone layer protects us from harmful radiation and allows some heat to stay here and warm us as the rest gets released, so it’s not too hot all of the time.
We aren’t the only organisms on the planet that rely on a healthy ozone layer, however. Animals and even bacteria will suffer if the ozone layer changes drastically. Phytoplankton, which is near the very bottom of the food chain with other algae, has seen a bit of a decline in population since researchers have been studying the ozone layer depletion.
A change like this at the bottom of the food chain has rippling effects throughout. It’s hard to tell how many species would decline if phytoplankton populations dipped beyond a troubling level.
Scientists have also seen a change in the reproductive rates in fish, frogs, crabs, and salamanders when they experience an unhealthy amount of UVB light absorption. This could mean that animals like these wouldn’t be able to survive if the ozone layer depleted much further.
The Future Of The Ozone Layer
There are a lot of problems that relate to climate change, oceanic pollution, and other issues that need tackling on a global scale. It’s not enough for one country to change its ways - the whole world needs to chip in.
Fortunately, this has happened when it comes to the ozone layer depletion. The world has banded together to significantly reduce their CFC output - especially in developed countries like the United States. The US has banned CFCs, and Europe has as well. This policy change has led to much less chlorine in the stratosphere, breaking down ozone molecules and depleting the ozone layer.
The ban took place in 1996, and the future of the ozone layer is looking a lot brighter than it once was. Followup studies have shown that the ozone layer hasn’t depleted any more since the large-scale
ban, and has even shown some signs of rebounding.
The UN even expects that the ozone layer will return to its natural state within 50 years - something most people didn’t think was possible when the situation became national news in the 1990s.
Of course, we can’t get complacent here. More countries are developing and need to keep their CFC production under control. The “ozone hole,” as its called, still needs more attention as the reduction in
the ozone in that area is more severe than in the rest of the world. The combination of long summer days and low temperatures make for an explosive recipe when it comes to ozone layer depletion.
Moving Forward: What Can You Do?
The ozone layer is something that we should always keep an eye on, but it’s also one of the places where the world has banded together to help limit climate change. The future of the ozone layer looks bright now, which is fantastic news for the generations to come.
This intervention in the face of catastrophe is a good sign for the future of this planet. Many people seem to think that humanity is incapable of change unless we’re staring down the barrel of elimination. The changes we’ve made to policy surrounding the ozone layer was effective, though, and looks like it will be enough for our protective shield to return to its natural state.