We’ve all heard about the hole in the ozone layer. History mentions that the hole was announced on May 16th, 1985. Over the years, the news has mentioned it in passing, yet people haven’t really considered the ramifications of such a catastrophic event. We have added to the growth of this hole through the unfortunate consequence of flawed background research and a need for better chemicals for certain necessary functions. Since the late 80s, governments and individuals have tried to avoid using those chemicals that lead to the destruction of the ozone layer, yet the hole is still getting bigger.
What Causes Ozone Layer Deterioration?
In the 60s and 70s, chemical manufacturers in the US discovered a new set of chemicals that seemed to be magic. These chemicals, termed chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were lightweight, multi-functional, cheap, and versatile in their application. However, no one expected that these seemingly magic wonder-chemicals would lead to untold destruction of the Ozone layer above our heads. CFCs were biodegradable and would break down into their component parts harmlessly for humans. Unfortunately, the free chemicals that they produced, most particularly chlorine, would drift into the stratosphere and interact with the ozone there, breaking it down. The EPA estimates that one atom of chlorine can disintegrate over 100,000 molecules of ozone before dissipating from the stratosphere. Since these chemicals have been up there since the 60s, the impact they’ve made on the ozone layer has been massive.
Why Do We Even Need the Ozone Layer?
As awesome as the sun is, people still use Solarium Tanning because it’s safer than getting skin cancer. The Ozone layer protects the dangerous rays that lead to skin cancer from hitting the earth’s surface. It acts as a massive shield, reflecting those rays off into space before they can harm us. However, skin cancer incidence has been rising continually since the breakdown of the ozone layer began. If the ozone layer disintegrates, we may not even be able to stand in the sun anymore, and all the animals and plants outdoors would die from solar radiation poisoning.
The Size Of the Hole Varies
The ozone layer’s depletion hole doesn’t always remain the same size. A wind band around the Antarctic region is responsible for influencing the size of the hole. The latest measurements from the European Space Agency (ESA) show that the hole is significantly larger than it previously was. Increasing temperatures may lead to an increase in depletion for a while, meaning that we may see things get a little worse before it gets better.
Taking Stock of the Situation
Humans have stopped using CFCs and replaced them almost wholly with other chemicals that perform the same actions yet are safer for the ozone layer. The problem is that this problem will hang around for a while. There’s no overnight solution for an issue of this caliber. However, with humans slowly reducing their impact on the ozone, scientists believe that the ozone layer will resume its thickness around the year 2050.