Ozone Depletion In The Arctic Essay

1477 words - 6 pages

Ozone Depletion in the Arctic

The reappearance of the ozone hole over Antarctica has been a hot topic for scientist around the world. A few of these scientists are the atmospheric physicist Richard D. McPeters and several of his colleagues at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. The ozone hole showed up earlier than expected, and it was wider and thinner. It appeared in mid-August, about two weeks ahead of schedule, and on September 19 reached the record size of 10.5 million square miles, more than three and a half times the area of the forty-eight contiguous United States that is a frightening statistic man. The hole actually is a thinning of the ozone layer--was also at a near-record problem. Ozone, a bluish gas whose molecules are made up of three oxygen atoms, occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere, where it acts as a kind of cosmic sun-block, protecting life on earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The sun's rays destroy some ozone, but there was no real loss because ozone regenerates itself from stray oxygen atoms and molecules. At least since 1985, however, that delicate balance has been upset. An Antarctic ozone hole now forms from September to November each year, caused by man-made pollutants that destroy ozone in the atmosphere. The hole has been getting progressively larger. The culprits are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), once used as coolants. The chlorine atoms from CFCs react with ozone and destroy it. Sunlight splits off chlorine from CFCs, and the chlorine-ozone reaction takes place most readily on the surface of ice crystals. Thus when the sun returns in the Antarctic spring ice crystals that had formed the winter before are in place to speed the reaction. Investigators are blaming the record size of the most recent ozone hole on unusually cooler temperatures at the South Pole last year. Chemical pollutants combined with unusually low temperatures high in the atmosphere to break a record-breaking hole in Earth's protective ozone layer this year, according to measurements made in Antarctica. The stratosphere above both poles has grown colder in recent years for reasons not clear to researchers. The recent Antarctica temperatures, the lowest in 2 decades of measurements, raise concern that the ozone layer will not heal as quickly as scientists had predicted, even though nations are curbing the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. One fear among scientists is that greenhouse gases could be playing a role in lowering all stratospheric temperatures. Carbon dioxide and other forms of pollution trap heat in the lower atmosphere, but they cool off the stratosphere--the layer between 10 and 50 kilometers in altitude. The ozone hole above Antarctica starts forming in September, when springtime sunlight returns to the polar skies. The light energizes chlorine- and bromine-containing chemicals that break down ozone molecules in the stratosphere. A key part of the chemical chain reaction takes place on the surface of...

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