A new study has revealed that we may have reasons for optimism in regards to the Earth’s ozone layer. So long the focus of scientific studies, a new report has come out showing that the ozone layer above Antarctica is finally starting to heal and come back around thanks to direct efforts to help remediate it. The regeneration of the ozone layer in this section of the planet could have a huge impact on the future of global health, at least from the perspective of reducing our manmade impact on our home.
The ozone layer is extremely important for all life on Earth and especially the life of humans. The ozone layer works to protect the surface of our planet, and humanity by extension, from harmful rays that lead to both cataracts and cancer. The degradation of the ozone layer over Antarctica was first really diagnosed in the mid-1980’s when it was revealed that a gigantic hole existed, created by manmade chemical emissions. The specific chemical that led to this ozone degradation is known as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. Since the diagnosis, there has been intense work being done in order to try and reduce our emissions and it looks like it is paying off.
The new study that was released utilized data compiled by the Microwave Limb Sounder, or MLS, that rides onboard the Aura satellite. The MLS detects hydrochloric acid, a chemical which eventually forms due to the collision of chlorine atmos and methane. Susan Strahan is the lead author of the new study and she works as an atmospheric scientist for NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center which is located in Greenbelt, MD. Strahan says, “So by measuring hydrochloric acid, we have a good measurement of the total chlorine.” Strahan went on to explain that they research ozone depletion during winter because temperatures are low, thus allowing them to get a more accurate reading of the chlorine in the atmosphere. Strahan goes on to say, “This is when we want to measure ozone loss.”
While there has been extensive research done on the ozone layer and its degradation, Strahan and her colleagues are measuring for the first time without relating to physical size. Instead, they are focused fully on the specific compounds that lead to degradation. Strahan says, “This gives us confidence that the decrease in ozone depletion through mid-September shown by MLS data is due to declining levels of chlorine coming from CFCs.”