The Ozone Layer Essay

1841 words - 7 pages

Over the years scientists have discovered the main function of the ozone layer. They have found that the ozone layer naturally shields the Earth from ultraviolet radiation that in large amounts can be harmful. When organisms are exposed to large amounts of ultraviolet radiation, the exposure can lead to DNA mutations that can cause damage to the organism and even skin cancer in humans (NOAA News). Even though the stratospheric ozone absorbs most forms of ultraviolet radiation, about half of UV-a radiation can get through, and this radiation is the type that causes sunburn, skin cancer, and eye damage (Ozone Watch). The graph below shows how most ultraviolet radiation is absorbed in the stratosphere, but about half of the UV-a radiation is able to reach Earth’s surface (Ozone Watch).

During the past century different human activities have caused the effectiveness of the ozone layer to decrease. The release of chlorofluorocarbons by different daily activities has been proven to cause a decrease in the thickness of the ozone layer especially over the poles (WUnder). Because of these reduced ozone levels, an increased amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation has been able to reach Earth’s surface (Ozone Watch). With this increase of ultraviolet radiation that has been reaching Earth’s surface over the past few decades, scientists have noticed that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of malignant skin cancer cases. In fact, scientists estimate that for every 1% decrease in ozone levels, there will be a 2-3% increase in the number of people who will suffer from certain skin cancers (Beyond Discovery). Another problem that has arisen in the past century has been the complex link between global warming and the ozone hole. Even though their causes differ, the greenhouse gases, such as CO2, that contribute to the warming of the troposphere in effect cool the stratosphere, and colder temperatures deplete the amount of available ozone. Then, positive feedback from the decreasing levels of ozone will cause the temperatures in the stratosphere to decrease even more (WUnder). With this decrease in the thickness of the ozone layer, more ultraviolet radiation is being able to escape through to the Earth’s surface. Scientists have observed that the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth has risen by 5% in the past decade alone (Beyond Discovery).
Every year the ozone layer experiences several months in which there is a decrease in the amount of ozone available over the poles. The ozone hole is classified as any region in which the “total column ozone amount” falls below 220 Dobson units, and this form of measurement referring to the vertical thickness of the ozone layer (WUnder). Therefore, the ozone hole is not actually a hole but merely a decrease in ozone concentration in the stratosphere (Atmos). It actually wasn’t until 1976 that scientists realized this seasonal thinning of the ozone layer was occurring over Antarctica. They...

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