Ozone layer is ‘on the mend’

Ozone hole in October 1999

Earth’s ozone layer is repairing itself, Nasa scientists have revealed.
The vital shield, which protects us from the Sun’s most harmful radiation, began thinning out at an alarming rate in the Eighties.
But the decline has stopped and ozone levels have remained roughly constant over recent years, a new study has found.
Experts blamed man-made chemicals found in aerosols for the destruction of the layer which acts like sunglasses for the planet.
Fears peaked when British scientists discovered a hole appearing in the ozone layer over the Antarctic, letting through dangerous ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer.
Last year the hole was bigger than ever at 10 million square miles, a similar size to North America.
Governments responded with an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol, banning ozone-destroying gases such as CFCs found in spraycans and refrigerators.
The hole over the Antarctic is still wide open, the experts say, but the rest of the layer seems to be on the mend.
International action is 50 per cent responsible for the promising new trend, a Nasa-led team will report in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
In the upper stratosphere, 11 miles above the Earth, ozone recovery can be explained almost entirely by CFC reductions, the scientists say.
But in the lower stratosphere, seven to 11 miles up, ozone has recovered at an even better rate and may have been helped by atmospheric winds.
Nasa says that if the trend continues, the global ozone layer should be restored to 1980 levels sometime between 2030 and 2070.
They believe the hole over the Antarctic might also finally close by then.

The picture is a Nasa image of the ozone hole over Antarctica in October 1999.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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