Ozone layer continues to thin

A coloured satellite map of atmospheric ozone in the southern hemisphere between mid August and early October 1998. An ozone

These substances were banned in 1989 in accordance with the Montreal Protocol and since then the ozone layer in the upper stratosphere has recovered significantly, particularly in the polar regions. Which is why the continued depletion of ozone in lower latitudes caught scientists somewhat by surprise.

"The reasons for the continued reduction of lower stratospheric ozone are not clear; models do not reproduce these trends, and thus the causes now urgently need to be established", scientists said in the study's abstract.

But recent evidence indicates that the global campaign to mend the ozone layer is far from over. As per the new report published on Tuesday in the European Geosciences Union journal Atmosphere, Chemistry and Physics informed that the protective Ozone layer is not recovering at more populated latitude.

The hole in the protective layer has been closing over Antarctica since ozone-damaging chemicals were banned by the Montreal Protocol, an global treaty, in 1987, but scientists have found that it is thinning in the lower stratosphere above more densely populated parts of the globe. Or, it could be a result of climate change, which has been exacerbated by human activity, and the changes it is causing to atmospheric circulation.

Study co-author Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said: "Ozone has been seriously declining globally since the 1980s".

Although they're not certain what's causing this decline, the authors suggest two possibilities.

The other is that very short-lived substances (VSLSs), which contain chlorine and bromine, could be destroying ozone in the lower stratosphere.


The ozone layer's total thickness-not just concentrations in the upper stratosphere-is vital for absorbing UV light. It is a matter of worry as the Montreal protocol no doubt has helped to reduce damage level at the poles but there are other things going on. The latter includes chemicals used in solvents, degreasing agents, and paint strippers. One of such chemicals is actually used to create a CFC replacement.

Dr William Ball from ETH Zurich and PMOD/WRC Davos, who led the analysis, said: "The finding of declining low-latitude ozone is surprising, since our current best atmospheric circulation models do not predict this effect".

Another suspect is so-called "very short lived substances" (VSLS) - industrial chemicals that destroy ozone.

To conduct the analysis, the team developed new algorithms to combine the efforts of multiple worldwide teams that have worked to connect data from different satellite missions since 1985 and create a robust, long time series. Now, the researchers hope to gather more precise data on the decline of the ozone layer and work out the cause. Thinning appears to be occurring in the lower stratosphere, at 15 to 24 kilometers (9 to 15 miles) altitude, above highly populated regions between 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south.

The researchers say the focus now should be on getting more precise data on the ozone decline, and determining what the cause most likely is, for example by looking for the presence of VSLSs in the stratosphere.

The study was the work of researchers from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Sweden, Canada and Finland, and included data from satellite missions, including by NASA.

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