Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ozone Hole heaading for a record?

The ozone hole over Antartactica is heading into record territory according to early reports. Its early days yet the ozone hole, which has formed every year for the last 30 years or so, is currenly on track to reach the size of the 1996 and 2000 holes which are the largest on record. Its probable that there is a maximum size imposed by the dynamics of global circulation that means it can't get any bigger. But this doesn't mean that it is not having a cumulative affect. Go to the TOMS site where there is an archive of ozone levels and compare any given day over the 15 odd years of records(be aware that the color coding changes a couple of times). You will notice that over the temperate region of the southern hemisphere ozone levels have been falling year in and year out.

More worrylingly perhaps is the fact that as far as the southern ozone hole the 1993 Montreal Protocol seems to be having little impact. Although this is hailed as a success there are a number of glaring loopholes . The impact of shuttle launches and their fuel pollution in particular the NOx gas; the impact of Methyl Bromide which is still widely used; the impact of CFC production that has probably contunied illegally in the 3rd World; and lastly, the impact of PFC's that have been untouched by the Montreal protocol yet will be one of the most persistent long term causes of ozone destruction around.

As the ozone hole gets arger and ozone level fall generally, two things happen. One is this exacerbates global woarming and the second is that it increases the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation that reaches the ground. This has a number of consequences -it causes an increase in sunburn in fair skinned people; it cause an increae in melanoma and other skin cancers in susceptible animals; it causes an increase in the rate of fungal and viral disease in plants and animals because of the genetic damage of the UV to surface cells in most organisms.

But don't worry it's all part of the grand design.
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