Published: Mon, January 08, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

NASA confirms hole on Earth's ozone layer shrinking

NASA confirms hole on Earth's ozone layer shrinking

Susan Strahan, an atmospheric scientist from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland said that "We see very clearly that chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it".

From the satellite data collected between 2005 and 2016, NASA scientists found that chlorine levels in the ozone hole have been decreasing by almost 1 percent each year. He continued that this gave them confidence that the reduction in ozone depletion in mid-September showed by MLS data is because declining levels of chlorine coming from CFCs. Using MLS data gathered every winter between 2005 and 2016, the team was able to determine the daily changes in ozone levels during the entire winter season of each year - from early July to mid-September. CFCs rise to the Earth's stratosphere, where the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun breaks apart the chemical to release chlorine atoms that destroy the ozone molecules. The stratospheric ozone prevents life on the earth by consuming harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer, suppress immune systems, cataract and damage plants.

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Total healing of the ozone layer will still take decades.

U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have credited the global ban on man-made chemicals containing chlorine with helping to bring the ozone back. The study detailing the discovery was published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal on January 4.

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The new study, according to NASA, is the first one to measure, "the chemical composition inside the ozone hole to confirm that not only is ozone depletion decreasing, but that the decrease is caused by the decline in CFCs". That seasonal shift is due to the fact that CFCs can stay afloat in the atmosphere for up to a century, and increased UV radiation at certain times of year kickstart the ozone depletion process all over again. Chlorine is found in many molecular forms when ozone destruction was continuing. Ground- and balloon-based measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also showed the least amount of ozone depletion above the continent during the peak of the ozone depletion cycle since 1988.

When the ozone depletion reaction occurs, chlorine can not be measured but "after chlorine has destroyed almost all the available ozone, it reacts instead with methane to form hydrochloric acid, a gas measured by MLS", according to NASA. Anne Douglas a scientist and a co-author of the study said that CFCs have a lifetime, so linger in the atmosphere for a long time. "And even then there might still be a small hole".

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