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06 January 2018, 04:40 | Ross Houston
Ozone layer of the atmosphere is recovering
The hole in the ozone layer has shrunk thanks to low levels of chlorine in the stratosphere - a drop brought about by the ban on CFCs, according to the latest NASA research. Ozone protects life by absorbing potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and damage plant life.
CFCs, which were used in aerosols, fridges, air conditioning and packing materials, are so harmful because they rise into the stratosphere, where they are broken apart by the Sun's ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine atoms that destroy ozone molecules.
The ozone layer hole was first discovered in 1980s and soon enough, the whole world joined in to solve the problem. The Montreal Protocol was a global promise made in 1989 by industrial countries to sharply curb the use of CFCs, and it looks like the Earth is finally beginning to fix the damage we wrought.
Fast forward to 2018, and NASA has now deemed the treaty a success in staving off the demise of the ozone layer.
Strahan's study is the first to look directly at measurements of chemicals to argue that the shrinking hole stems from the ban of CFCs.
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Using a special instrument designed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the agency's Aura satellite has measured declines in the concentration of ozone-killing chlorine. Chlorine is hard to measure, but when it's run out of ozone to eat, chlorine molecules react with methane to form hydrochloric acid, which is easier to measure.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he delivers a speech during the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda on October 14, 2016. By measuring hydrochloric acid levels each fall, scientists were able to gauge the amounts of chlorine in the ozone hole. These readings suggest that the ban on CFCs has resulted in about 20 percent less ozone depletion during the Antarctic winter than there was in 2005. Comparing hydrochloric acid levels with nitrous oxide levels-another gas that remains in the atmosphere-they determined chlorine's decline of 0.8 percent per year. The abrupt discontinuity in the 2017 plot is due to the orientation of the ozone hole rotating as the satellite gathered its data over the full 24 hour period.
"This is very close to what our model predicts we should see for this amount of chlorine decline. And even then, there might still be a small hole".
"As far as the ozone hole being gone, we're looking at 2060 or 2080", Douglass said in a statement.
In 1987 - two years after the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic - the nations of the world banded together to sign the Montreal Protocol, which regulated ozone-depleting compounds and resulted in the complete phasing out of CFC production.
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