Ozone layers continues to thin

Protective ozone layer is recovering but not over populated areas

And scientists are not sure why it isn't. But recovery at lower latitudes, where far more people live, is not. New research indicates that the ozone layer, which wraps around the entire Earth, is thinning over non-polar areas. The protective layer is situated in the stratosphere region of the atmosphere and a large portion of the ozone layer is present in the lower part of the stratosphere.

The ozone layer which protects life on Earth from high-energy radiation has continued to thin over the last three decades, a study has warned. Much of it is in the lower part of the stratosphere, where it absorbs UV radiation from the Sun which can damage DNA in plants, animals and humans if it reaches the Earth's surface. That led to governments phasing out the CFCs, which led to the first results of healing of the ozone shield above the Antarctic.

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.

Also, scientists suggested that climate changes could be responsible for these changes in the ozone layer as well.

The 'ozone hole' became the focus of an iconic campaign against pollution, but scientists had believed it had recovered, after the Montreal Protocol's ban on substances such as CFCs. That is the case this year and at the moment there is significant ozone depletion over northern Ireland and Scotland.

Anna Jones, an atmospheric chemist at the British Antarctic Survey and not involved in the new study, said: "To identify what action might be needed to prevent further decreases, it is extremely important to understand what is causing the observed downward trend". They found that from 1998 to 2016, ozone in the lower stratosphere ebbed by 2.2 Dobson units-a measure of ozone thickness-even as concentrations in the upper stratosphere rose by about 0.8 Dobson units.

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"The potential for harm in lower latitudes may actually be worse than at the poles", says Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. The ozone layer "hole" began patching itself, and signs pointed towards the same for lower latitudes. Substitutes for the particularly harmful CFCs are less thinning for the ozone layer but are not neutral either.

The cause is not certain but the researchers believe it is possible climate change is altering the pattern of atmospheric circulation - causing more ozone to be carried away from the tropics.

On the other hand, very short-lived substances (VSLSs) containing chlorine and bromine are on the rise, and could increasingly enter the lower stratosphere, for example as a result of more intense thunderstorms. The latter includes chemicals used in solvents, degreasing agents, and paint strippers.

In the 1970s it came to know that, CFCs was severely affecting and destroying the ozone layer in the stratosphere. Dr. William Ball from ETH Zurich and PMOD/WRC Davos, who led the analysis, said that their team was surprised to find out that the lower latitude ozone is declining since their current best atmospheric circulation models do not predict this effect. "These short-lived substances could be an insufficiently considered factor in the models", says Ball.

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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