Sat Jul 28, 2012, 03:58 PM
Ichingcarpenter (29,454 posts)
Stronger storms may destroy ozone
xtra water vapor up high coul trigger destructive chemical reactions
Climate change may spur the destruction of ozone in unexpected parts of the globe.
In a warming world, many scientists believe, severe weather will become more common. That could be a problem in part because powerful rainstorms have the potential to erode ozone above the United States, researchers report online July 27 in Science.
“For 30 years, we’ve studied the problems of ozone loss and climate change separately,” says team leader James Anderson, a Harvard atmospheric scientist. “Now it’s pretty clear that climate change appears to be linked directly to the loss of ozone.” High-altitude ozone acts as a protective shield, blocking ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer.
Anderson and his colleagues stumbled on the unexpected connection while studying strong summer storms fueled by rising heat. During missions from 2001 to 2007, NASA planes flying close to the edge of space spotted water spewed high into the sky by convective storms over the U.S. The goal was to gather useful measurements for figuring out how high-altitude clouds form and trap heat.
For the past 25 years, it seemed that we’d pretty much solved the ozone problem. In the 1970s and 80s, people around the world grew increasingly alarmed as research revealed that chemicals we were producing—such as CFCs, used in refrigeration— had started destroying the crucial ozone layer, high up in the atmopshere, that protects us from the sun’s harmful UV radiation. In response, world governments came together to sign the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which phased out the production of ozone-depleting chemicals. The concentration of these chemicals in the atmosphere leveled off within a decade.
Yesterday, though, Harvard scientists hit us with some bad news: It looks as if climate change could actually cause the depletion of the ozone layer to resume on a wide scale, with grim implications for the United States.
“If you were to ask me where this fits into the spectrum of things I worry about, right now it’s at the top of the list,” said professor James Anderson in a press release, discussing his team’s paper, published online in Science. “What this research does is connect, for the first time, climate change with ozone depletion, and ozone loss is directly tied to increases in skin cancer incidence, because more ultraviolet radiation is penetrating the atmosphere.”
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