A new study says the protective layer of the Earth’s atmosphere is finally healing from damage by humans’ use of harmful chemicals. Aerosol sprays and coolants had been thinning the ozone layer since the 1970s. After scientists raised concerns about ozone-reducing chemicals, people and companies around the world stopped using them.
What is the ozone layer?
Ozone is a colorless combination of three oxygen atoms. The ozone layer starts at about 10 kilometers above Earth and stretches nearly 40 kilometers higher. The ozone layer is important because it protects Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which cause skin cancer, crop damage and other problems.
But man-made chemicals – called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs – can damage the ozone layer. In 1987, countries around the world agreed in the Montreal Protocol to end the use of CFCs over time. The United Nations released a study on the effects of the decreased use of CFCs at a conference in Quito, Ecuador in early November.
The study found that the upper ozone layer above the Northern Hemisphere should be completely repaired in the 2030s. The huge Antarctic ozone hole should disappear in the 2060s. The Southern Hemisphere should be healed by about the 2050s, the study showed.
Paul Newman is the chief Earth scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and co-leader of the study. He told the Associated Press the findings are good news.
“If ozone-depleting substances had continued to increase, we would have seen huge effects,” said Newman. “We stopped that.” Newman noted that, at its worst in the late 1990s, about 10 percent of the upper ozone layer was depleted. Since 2000, the ozone layer has increased by about 1 to 3 percent every ten years, the report said.
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