The Ozone Hole

It’s Back! Why?

The word is out from Antarctic LTER colleagues who attended the May 2013 LTERnet Science Meeting that the ozone hole is back! Just when we thought that CFCs had that hole on the run, he’s back. Apparently there is or are modes of ozone hole variability which escaped our scientific attention.

The last time I blogged about ozone issues was on April 29, 1993. I know, web blogging had not been invented yet. Science outreach to the general public was limited in its scope. None-the-less here is what I reported in 1993.

From time to time, I have kept CED readers up-to-date on the latest good stuff on the repeating news-story #2241: The Demise of the Ozone Layer. This is from NASA by way of the usual pre-scientific paper news release and their mouthpiece this time is the Washington Post. The Washington Post got a new religion on this one [April 15, 1993]. Here is an assortment of newsy headers in their two-page feature:

  • "For Eons, Nature Has Created, Destroyed Ozone above Earth"
  • "Ultraviolet Fluctuates Naturally"
  • "Amount of Ozone in Any Area Location Varies"
  • "In the Debate About Ozone, No Depletion in Rhetoric"

NASA-Goddard scientist Richard Stolarski weighs in with this little gem: "I happen not to be of the disaster school. It's a serious concern but we can't show that anything really catastrophic has happened yet, or that anything catastrophic will happen in the future."

Greener than thou Michael Oppenheimer (EDF) adds, "The current and projected levels of ozone depletion do not appear to represent a catastrophe. But I'm flabbergasted that we let it go this far before taking action."

The Post notes that "If there has been any increase in UV, researchers say, it is too small to measure against a background of normal ultraviolet levels that rise and fall by large amounts for entirely natural reasons on time scales from hours to decades. It is noted that late winter ozone has decreased say 8 to 10% in the high latitudes but with the low sun angle, the path length of ozone it has to pass through is 40 times as much ozone as when the UV rays are perpendicular to the atmosphere like over the equator at the times of the equinoxes."

John Frederick, atmospheric physics University of Chicago, contributes this one to the Post's new view, "People get all excited about a few-percent change in UV, but it's nothing to get a 20% increase naturally. If an increase of 20% were going to be so damaging, there should be no life in Florida." Florida UV always exceeds the allegedly dangerous levels once forecast for more northerly latitudes. So, this may be my last Ozone Update for CED readers. Don't count on it. There may be a die-hard out there who does not read the Washington Post.

If anyone out there in the blogosphere with an explanation let's have it.

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