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What up, ozone?

December 18, 2009

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand

Back in the day, when I was first being indoctrinated with liberal, tree-hugging propaganda, one of the first things I remember worrying my little head about was the giant hole in the ozone layer. In my mind, it was like a hole in an astronauts' face mask, sucking the life right out of our atmosphere.

Now I tend to think of it as a bald spot (equally frightening as an adult) - the lack of ozone allows harmful UVB rays to make it to the Earth's surface, giving us all more sunburns, skin cancer, and cataracts.

So, why do we not hear about the health of the ozone layer these days? Is no news good news?

In this case, yes. According to a 2006 report by the World Meteorological Society, the amount of ozone-depleting gases in the atmosphere is - for the first time since we started paying attention to this problem - decreasing.

What led to this tiny ecological success was a concerted effort called the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, which instructed all participating countries to reduce or eliminate the use of ozone-depleting substances.

As if to reward us for good behaviour, the atmosphere seems to be healing itself, slowly but surely. The amount of ozone hasn't yet begun to climb, and in fact the polar regions are still experiencing large ozone deficits, but we have reached a critical point in the recovery process.

If the Montreal Protocol is implemented globally, we should see an increase in atmospheric ozone by mid-century, and a complete recovery to pre-1980 levels by the end of the century.

Just in time for me to shine up my bald spot.

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