Study finds the Ozone hole is finally healing – a true global effort
16 September 1987 – The world came together to curb the ever-increasing threat to our Ozone layer. This invisible layer, composed completely of gas, is one of the key reasons life exists on Earth. The protective shield is composed of O3 (oxygen-3) atoms located within the stratosphere. The oxygen-rich layer protects the Earth from highly radioactive Ultraviolet-B radiation. Without the presence of the Ozone, the Sun’s radiation would sterilize the Earth’s surface. For us humans, that means more cancers and birth defects in highly exposed areas.
During the 1950s, scientists conducted ground-based experiments testing to see if the Ozone was at risk. In the 1970s, more studies were undertaken to find evidence of the Ozone layer deteriorating and thinning above Antarctica during springtime. The prime driver for this deterioration was from the expulsion of Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) into the atmosphere. These chemicals were commonly found in refrigerants, propellants and solvents.
In Punta Arenas, Chile, the lack of a complete Ozone layer has created the conditions of an uncontrolled science experiment: exposing those living there to long-term doses of potentially lethal radiation. The effects of this ‘uncontrolled experiment’ won’t be apparent for several decades, but an increase in cancer and damage to plants and marine life is expected. Uncontrolled radioactive exposure such as that seen in Punta Arenas is the primary reason why, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed.
This international treaty was written and signed to protect the Earth’s Ozone layer by phasing out the usage of CFC based products. As a result, the Ozone started to thicken around Antarctica over the next few decades. Calculations have predicted the Ozone will return to 1980 levels by the year 2050 – 2070. This was confirmed with the publication of a new study which has revealed that the Ozone is officially healing itself. The scientists tracked the yearly September Ozone measurements from 2000 – 2015 using weather balloons and satellites. The measurements confirmed the calculated models predicted and showed the Ozone Hole was shrinking.
The Montreal Protocol is one of the first major success stories whereby the world united to protect the Earth. The latest results help cement the idea that the world can indeed work together and save the sacred planet we live on. The healing Ozone layer is one step of many if we are to succeed in making Earth a habitable place for hundreds of generations to come. The Paris Agreement, signed during December 2015, is another treaty hoping for the same success as its predecessor.
The video below shows the Ozone minimums above Antarctica from 1979 to 2013. The concentrations show variable fluctuations annually and according to the 300 scientists around the world, is shrinking.