What is the Ozone Hole?

Satellite image of the ozone hole on 24th September, 2006.

Satellite image of the ozone hole on 24th September, 2006.

You may have heard about the “ozone hole” that’s located somewhere above us, in the Earth’s atmosphere. You may also have heard that it’s not really a good thing for us here on Earth. If you’ve heard this, you heard right.

But what exactly is the ozone hole?

The ozone hole is an area of extremely depleted ozone in the ozone layer above the Antarctic. The ozone hole is not present all year round though. It only occurs during the beginning of the Southern Hemisphere spring - between August and October. 

The problem with the ozone hole is that, it allows harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun to reach Earth. These UV rays are usually filtered out by the ozone layer, but when the ozone has been depleted (as is the case with the ozone hole), the UV rays are no longer filtered out.

Why are UV Rays Harmful?

Although in small doses, UV light can be beneficial, overexposure can cause sunburn and some forms of skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can also cause other problems for the skin, eyes and even the immune system.

UV rays don’t only affect humans. Studies have shown that hundreds of species of plants and animals display a negative reaction to increased UV rays. There are however, some species that react positively to an increased exposure to UV light.  

What Causes the Ozone Hole?

Here are the main factors that contribute to the ozone hole:

  • Stratospheric sulfate aerosols - In other words, volcanic eruptions
  • Stratospheric winds
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Sunspot cycle - an 11 year cycle that causes variation in the UV radiation produced by the sun
  • Stratospheric chlorine - coming mainly from man-made halocarbons

While we generally have little control over natural occurrences, we do have control over the man-made ones. You may have heard that chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) are causing the ozone hole to grow bigger. CFCs are a group of chemical compounds that consist of alkalines such as methane or ethane. They also have one or more halogens linked, such as chlorine or fluorine.

CFCs find their way into the atmosphere from refrigeration and propellant devices and processes.

Basically, man-made products are contributing to the increasing size of the ozone hole.

What’s Being Done About It?

Many countries have banned the use of most CFC-emitting aerosol products, such as fly spray, deodorants, and hair spray. The bans generally require that those types of products are produced in a way that doesn’t result in CFCs being emitted.

Such a ban was introduced in the U.S. in 1978, and although most CFC-emitting products were banned long ago, there are still some that are being phased out. For example, albuterol metered dose inhalers (MDIs) will not be available in the U.S. after 31 December 2008.

There is also an international environmental treaty called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. At present, 191 countries are involved in this agreement, which is designed to phase out substances that lead to ozone depletion. There is also a belief that, as long as the treaty is adhered to, the ozone layer will recover by 2050.

Tags: , , , , ,

Related Posts:

8 Responses to “What is the Ozone Hole?”

  1. Jon Nemo Says:

    I see no mention of the Polar Vortex in this item on the Ozone Hole. The only time there is a hole in the Ozone is when there is a Polar Vortex. Yes there is a loss of Ozone, but this would be replaced by Ozone from the rest of the atmosphere. The Polar vortex prevents this from happening.
    There is also a hole that appears in the Arctic, but only when there is a Polar Vortex.

    Nemo

  2. Heat Therapy Says:

    I recently came across your web site and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my very first comment. Nice blog! I will keep visiting this website very frequently.

  3. taking online surveys Says:

    Well I really liked studying it. This information procured by you is very practical for correct planning.

  4. Free horse games Says:

    Amazing blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks a lot

  5. Cotton Bags Says:

    Prolonged exposure to UV rays can also cause other problems for the skin, eyes and even the immune system.

  6. Cotton Bags Says:

    theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your design.

  7. cleaning products Says:

    I hope I can live long enough to see when ozone layer will recover by 2050.

  8. Carpet Clean Derrimut Says:

    Its sad to know that such ozone hole exist and this is because of our lack of discipline. and in exchange we are the ones that suffer as well. Thanks a lot for this information, hopefully everyone who will read it will act now accordingly.