A Canadian scientist says he has discovered a massive hole in the ozone layer over the planet’s tropical region that could affect 50 percent of the world’s population.
According to Qing-Bin Lu, a professor at the University of Waterloo, the hole is seven times the size of the well-known Antarctic ozone hole that forms in the spring. The results were published in the journal AIP progress.
Through his research, Lu claims he found that the massive hole is present year-round and has been there since the 1980s — about 40 years.
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His presence could have devastating consequences for life on Earth, he warns.
“The tropics cover half of the Earth’s surface and are home to about half of the world’s population,” Lu said in a press release. “The existence of the tropical ozone hole may cause great concern around the world.”
The tropics are regions of the Earth’s center, including the equator and parts of North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
“Ozone depletion can result in increased ground-level UV radiation, which can increase the risk of skin cancer and cataracts in humans, as well as weaken the human immune system, reduce agricultural productivity and adversely affect vulnerable aquatic organisms and ecosystems. ” he said.
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The ozone layer is a natural layer of gases in the Earth’s stratosphere and is vital to the maintenance of life on Earth as it protects us and other living things from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
The process of ozone formation and destruction is ongoing, but researchers found in the 1970s that certain industrial chemicals — including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), agents in some aerosol sprays, and refrigerants, among others — can accelerate degradation. This theory was supported by confirmation of the Antarctic ozone hole in 1985.
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Governments at the time quickly banned many of the harmful chemicals, and last year the United National Environment Program (UNEP) reported that stopping the use of these chemicals was helping to heal the ozone layer.
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Lu and his team say they identified this latest hole by examining average annual ozone changes, differences in annual ozone climatology, and temperature changes over the past few decades, but his findings came as a shock to other scientists whose conventional photochemical modeling has done so did not show the big gap.
If this new discovery is true, it negates much of what science has learned about ozone holes.
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Several researchers have expressed doubts about the study, saying Lu’s methods were flawed.
Paul Young, a Lancaster University researcher and lead author of the latest scientific assessment of ozone depletion (not involved in the study), told the Science Media Center that Lu looked at percentage changes in ozone rather than absolute changes.
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“There is no ‘tropical ozone hole’ powered by the author’s proposed electrons from cosmic rays or otherwise. The long-term changes and year-to-year fluctuations in the ozone layer in the lower tropical stratosphere are known to be the result of both man-made processes and natural factors,” Young said.
“The author’s identification of a ‘tropical ozone hole’ is due to his looking at percentage changes in ozone rather than absolute changes, the latter being much more relevant to the harmful UV radiation reaching the surface. Interestingly, his article also does not draw on the extensive literature that studies and documents ozone trends in all regions of the atmosphere.”
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Martyn Chipperfield, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Leeds, told the Science Media Center that he was “surprised that this study was even published in its current form”.
“The results of this work will be very controversial and I am not convinced that they are correct,” he said. “The claim in this research of such large ozone changes in the tropics was not apparent in other studies, which makes me very suspicious. Science should never rely on just one study, and this new work needs careful review before it can be accepted as fact.”
The study builds on earlier work by Lu and colleagues on an ozone depletion theory. The group has been studying the cosmic ray-driven electron reaction-initiated ozone depletion (CRE) mechanism for about two decades.
“The present discovery requires further careful studies on ozone depletion, changes in UV radiation, increased risk of cancer and other negative impacts on health and ecosystems in tropical regions,” Lu said.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8970778/ozone-layer-hole-tropics/ Canadian scientist says he’s found a giant ozone hole over the tropics