Thrawn Rickle 4

The Ozone Hole
© 1990 Williscroft

The greens have “alerted” all of us to the alarming possibility that we are destroying the earth’s ozone layer, and threatening all life on earth.

An interesting premise. Let’s examine it more closely.

Ozone is an unstable molecule formed by lightning and when free oxygen atoms are released in an oxygen-rich atmosphere.

In our atmosphere, most ozone is created when normal oxygen molecules are split apart by the action of ultraviolet light in normal sunshine.

Ozone remains at the top of the atmosphere where it absorbs ultraviolet light, forming a “protective layer.”

Ozone decays naturally. It is broken apart faster in the presence of CFCs (refrigerants and propellants), oxides of nitrogen (auto emissions, power plants, forest fires, and volcanoes), and methane (agriculture and volcanoes). Thus, ozone that drifts into the lower atmosphere is destroyed.

When ozone molecules break up at the top of the atmosphere, new ozone is created by ultraviolet light. Studies on how long this process takes indicate that ozone regenerates fast enough to preclude significant ultraviolet effects at the earth’s surface. 

The “ozone hole” results during polar winter (3 months of twilight, 3 months of darkness, 3 months of twilight) when the sun doesn’t shine, while ozone continues to break down due to natural and man-made processes. Such a “hole” cannot endanger normal living things, because as soon as ultraviolet light strikes the “hole,” new ozone is formed; and during the night while the hole is present, there is no ultraviolet light. The “hole” is an artifact of the polar night. The effect is enhanced by the presence of CFCs, nitrogen oxides, and methane; it is not caused by these agents.

Buildup of CFCs, nitrogen oxides, and methane will inevitably result in an overall thinning of the ozone layer, but the amount of these substances that would cause immediate dissolution of each ozone molecule the moment it forms would wreck direct havoc on our atmosphere long before reaching the point of totally preventing the formation of an ozone layer. Ozone layer thinning caused by “normal industrial amounts” of CFCs will be insignificant, especially when compared to the effects of volcanic eruptions combined with summer methane production from northern hemisphere agriculture (you know – cows!).

Interesting, isn’t it, how facts can change one’s perspective?

Submariner, diver, scientist, author & adventurer. 22 mos underwater, a yr in the equatorial Pacific, 3 yrs in the Arctic, and a yr at the South Pole. BS Marine Physics & Meteorology, PhD in Engineering. Authors non-fiction, Cold War thrillers, and hard science fiction. Lives in Centennial, CO.

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