A Hope for Antarctic Ozone Depletion

By Loret Haas-Hanser


The ozone is a stratospheric region of Earth that absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Comprised of a special form of oxygen made from three oxygen atoms rather than the normal two, the ozone protects all life on Earth from the impending danger of ultraviolet rays. Not only is the ozone integral for human life, its degradation is a perfect example of the harmfulness and toxicity that lies within human nature.


As if global warming wasn’t destroying the arctic enough, the antarctic ozone hole is another catastrophe imposed by humankind. There are very specific chemical and atmospheric conditions that are unique to the Antarctic stratosphere that make it especially susceptible to ozone layer depletion. Initially intensifying in the early 1980s, the loss of ozone in this particular area of the world began to increase exponentially due to the massive emissions of ozone depleting substances (ODS). Common ODS are [hydro]chlorofluorocarbons (air conditioning, refrigeration, heat pumps), halons (fire suppression) and methyl bromides (soil treatment, gardening agents). Although the ozone layer has been slowly depleting on a global scale, there seems to be hope. A research team in India has been conducting a longitudinal study regarding ozone depletion in the Antarctic, and has promising news.


From 1988 to 2017, Jayanarayanan Kuttippurath and his research team closely monitored the Antarctic ozone hole. The ozone layer experienced its harshest loss between 1988 and 2001. From 2002 to 2017, analysis shows a reduction in the frequency of ozone-loss saturation. There is no conclusive evidence thus far, but scientists theorize that the difference could be due to the increasing awareness for global warming since the turn of the century, even moreso possibly due to the exposure developed by Al Gore. Whether this is true or just a hopeful speculation, humans need to try harder to be find ways to decrease their ecological footprints.


Shrinking Antarctic ozone hole, NASA


Although the reason behind this phenomenon is not entirely known, it does show that the ozone is able to recover from the abuse imposed onto it. It may not be able to be fully repaired, but even the slightest bit of repair is better than nothing. In future decades, hopefully we will be able to see a positive change in the Antarctic ozone hole. We do not have control over the healing properties in the ozone, but we do have control over other environmental factors, even ones that impact the same area of the planet.

The melting of the polar ice caps and other climate change-induced habitat loss is destroying the homes of millions of animals. Soon, these areas will become for the animals we know and love. Don’t let forms of life humanity grew alongside perish. No matter your religious, political or personal affiliation, educate yourself and learn about what you can do to care about the planet and decrease your ecological footprint. Helping the planet starts with one person, and can be as simple as not buying bottled water, getting reusable grocery bags or taking public transport.


References:


Kuttippurath, J., Kumar, P., Nair, P. J., & Pandey, P. C. (2018). Emergence of ozone recovery evidenced by reduction in the occurrence of Antarctic ozone loss saturation. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 1(1), 42.

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