Ozone hole’s repair belies thinning of planet’s ultraviolet shield closer to equator

Science | AAAS | 2/6/2018 | Staff
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An unheralded group of chemicals may complicate the current view of ozone-depleting substances in the mid-latitudes.

Thirty years after nations banded together to phase out chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone, the gaping hole in the earth’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation shield above Antarctica is shrinking. But new findings suggest that at mid-latitudes, where most people live, the ozone layer in the lower stratosphere is growing more tenuous--for reasons that scientists are struggling to fathom.

People - William - Ball - Physicist - Physikalisch-Meteorologisches

“I don’t want people to panic or get overly worried,” says William Ball, an atmospheric physicist at the Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos World Radiation Centre in Switzerland. “But there is something happening in the lower stratosphere that’s important to understand.”

Several recent studies, including one published last month in Geophysical Research Letters, point to a robust recovery of stratospheric ozone concentrations over Antarctica--the long-awaited payoff after the Montreal Protocol in 1987 mandated a global phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-eating compounds.

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Evidence - Campaign - Ozone - Layer - Analysis

But recent evidence indicates that the global campaign to mend the ozone layer is far from over. In an analysis published today in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Ball and colleagues combined satellite data to examine ozone at mid-latitudes, from Earth’s surface on up through the troposphere and the stratosphere. 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. “We saw it at almost every latitude and every altitude below about 25 kilometers,” Ball says. “That made us very concerned that perhaps this was something very real that no one looked at before.”

The ozone layer’s total thickness--not...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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