How ozone holes are formed, and why planting trees won’t help patch them

From time to time we hear news about the formation of new ozone holes or the reduction in the size of old ones. What factors influence the appearance of these dangerous formations in the ozone layer of the Earth, and how can humanity influence the situation?

Holes in the ozone layer appeared due to the fault of humanity, but people quickly corrected themselves and stopped synthesizing dangerous substances. Now it remains only to wait – scientists cannot offer any other measures to restore the protective shell of the Earth.

Depletion of the ozone layer does not cause global warming, but both of these environmental problems have a common cause – the activities of humanity, which releases pollutants into the atmosphere and affects the processes taking place in it. If global warming is due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then the formation of ozone holes is largely associated with the ingress of chlorofluorocarbons into the upper atmosphere – gaseous substances that were previously used in aerosol cans and as refrigerants.

Ozone is found in two different parts of our atmosphere. The “bad” ozone located in the lower layers of the air envelope is a component of smog and has a negative effect on human health. It has nothing to do with ozone holes, since after formation it quickly turns back into oxygen. Most of the Earth’s ozone is “good” and is in the stratosphere. A layer of molecules of this substance absorbs high-energy UV radiation and prevents dangerous UV rays from reaching the Earth’s surface.

The “ozone hole” refers to the depletion of the protective ozone layer in the stratosphere over the polar regions of the Earth. People, plants and animals living under such an area are exposed to solar radiation, which can be hazardous to health – in particular, cause melanoma. Scientists found that the depletion of the ozone layer was caused by an increase in the concentration of certain substances – chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and to a lesser extent halons, which are used to extinguish fires. These chemicals can remain in the atmosphere for a long time – from ten years to centuries.

Ozone depletion reactions become more active at low temperatures. Ozone begins to be degraded by CFCs on the surfaces of ice particles in the stratosphere. To prevent the formation of holes in the ozone layer, it is enough just to prevent gases that destroy O3 molecules from entering the atmosphere. After the UN countries signed the Montreal Protocol, the production of these substances began to decline and today we can only wait until all CFC molecules disappear from the upper layers. Planting trees and reducing carbon dioxide emissions does not solve this problem – humanity only needs to control itself and no longer create dangerous refrigerants.

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