Every year on September 16, people around the world celebrate the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. The day was established by the UN in 1994 in an effort to spread awareness of the need of safeguarding the layer that protects all life on Earth from the Sun’s dangerous UV radiation.
In the late 1970s, scientists first discovered a hole in the ozone layer, which they eventually linked to ozone-depleting substances. These gases are utilised in refrigeration and air conditioning, two cooling processes.
How would the situation be without Ozone Protection?
Although a full-blown crisis was avoided thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the situation is still out of control. According to a study from Lancaster University researchers published in Nature last year, things would have been really bad without ozone protection.
A 0.5 to 1°C temperature increase would have caused the Earth to practically roast by the end of this century. Climate change will have the advantage it needs to wipe out all life on Earth if the ozone layer is not protected from further deterioration. Without protection from UV light, plants would not be able to absorb carbon dioxide, which would accelerate climate change. Without the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer would have disappeared by 2040, claims the study.
By the middle of this century, the ozone layer is predicted to return to its pre-1980 levels. Greenhouse gases, methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and chemical families of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons all contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer (HFCs).
Wildfires causing harm to the layer
While it seems that the ozone layer is on its way to recovery, according to a new study, smoke from intense wild fires that raged across southeastern Australia in 2019–20 caused atmospheric temperatures to spike and probably made the hole in the ozone layer bigger.
Intense bush fires that burned more than 5.8 million hectares in 2019 were caused by an extreme drought. The flames produced plumes of smoke that soared into the atmosphere and raised lower stratospheric temperatures across Australia by 3 °C in addition to causing catastrophic destruction. According to the research, which was released on August 25 in Scientific Reports, temperatures in the lower stratosphere increased by 0.7 °C globally. The increase in temperature lasted for around four months.
According to the study, chemical reactions that occurred between the smoke and the ozone in the atmosphere exacerbated the Antarctic Ozone hole and made it bigger. This hole did get repaired eventually after about five months, but persistent wildfires could cause permanent damage to the hole.
Russia Burning off Excessive Gas – Another threat to Ozone Hole
As the tensions between the European Nations and Russia increases, Russia has allegedly been burning off excessive gas, in response to the trade embargo with Europe, causing a significant damage to the environment. According to scientists, while flaring is a much better alternative than releasing methane in the environment which contributes significantly more to global warming, the activity still generates a large amount of black carbon which in turn can lead to soot deposits on arctic ice which could lead to its melting. Not only do the black carbon affect the arctic ice, but it also stay suspended in the stratosphere and absorb solar radiation, warming the surrounding air. These warming temperatures lead to Ozone reduction, and has a potential to cause damage to the Ozone layer in the atmosphere.