Slower Recovery of Ozone Layer Raises Concerns About UV Radiation’s Impact on Earth

Predictions of a full restoration of the ozone layer by mid-century appear to be in question now that researchers have found that ultraviolet radiation has recently become more successful at reaching the surface in some places on Earth.

In the 1980s, scientists sounded the alarm: The concentration of ozone in the stratosphere was dropping, especially over Antarctica. And it is our fault. We pump substances into the air that destroy the ozone layer. And this is a bad thing, because the ozone layer blocks ultraviolet radiation from the sun that is harmful to humans, animals, and plants, and is therefore essential to life on Earth. Reason enough to save the ozone layer from being destroyed. Several years later I did The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer called to life. Governments around the world have signed up to this protocol, pledging to stop the production of substances that destroy the ozone layer. Governments put their money where their mouth is and since the year 2000 it has become clear that they have led to the restoration of the ozone layer. Researchers recently predicted that the ozone layer – if we continue on this path – will return to normal within four decades.

New quest
But new research was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, now suggesting that we may be cheering up too soon. In the study, scientists came to the conclusion that the amount of ultraviolet radiation that manages to reach the Earth’s surface has increased again in recent years, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. This suggests that the ozone layer is recovering more slowly than previously thought. “Our study shows that stratospheric ozone recovers mainly in the stratosphere and in the southern hemisphere,” said researcher Yan Xia. “But we also found that ozone concentrations in the middle and lower stratosphere have decreased since 2010 between latitudes 30 and 60 north.”

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“The slow recovery of stratospheric ozone is very unexpected,” Xia concluded. Research reveals that slower recovery has at least two causes. First of all, it seems to be traceable back to weak airflow in the central part of the stratosphere. As a result, less ozone is transported from the tropics to higher northern latitudes, said Xia. But it seems that we humans also have big toes. “Our analysis shows that the decrease in stratospheric ozone after 2010 may be related to the increase in stratospheric NOx,” said Xia. “This, in turn, is caused by increased nitrous oxide (N2O or nitrous oxide, ed.) emissions.” that increase Menus KNMI Mainly as a result of “the production and use of industrial fertilizers and the increased production of manure from livestock”.

Researchers have determined that in recent years, emissions of ozone-depleting substances limited by the Montreal Protocol have also increased. This has led some to worry that the restoration of the ozone layer could be delayed. However, it is not clear whether increased emissions of ozone-depleting substances also play a role in the slower recovery that researchers report in this new study.

The fact that the ozone layer appears to be recovering more slowly than previously thought is worrying, said Shea. Because the ozone layer – because it blocks harmful ultraviolet rays – is essential for (healthy) life on Earth. “Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is known to play an important role in the development of skin cancer and is harmful to the immune system and human DNA. It also has a significant impact on agricultural productivity and ecosystems on land and in water.” Simply because UV rays can also damage plants and other organisms.

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Shea stressed that more research is needed to determine what the future of the ozone layer might look like. “Continued monitoring of ozone concentrations and UV levels is important if we are to better understand why the restoration of the ozone layer has been delayed and whether these trends will continue.”

However, and further research is pending, the recovery of the ozone layer is certainly not rapid. “Our results remind us that ozone recovery is a complex process that is influenced by many factors,” said Xia. Whether full recovery is possible is still uncertain. More research and implementation of policies, such as the Montreal Protocol, are critical to turning things around, reducing UV exposure, and protecting life on Earth.”

2023-06-08 16:35:22
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