Depletion of the Ozone Layer: Its causes, effects, and possible solutions

Topics: Ozone depletion, Ozone, Ozone layer Pages: 7 (2736 words) Published: July 22, 2004
The depletion of the ozone layer is a major concern today. The ozone layer protects us from the harmful rays of the sun; therefore it is imperative that we preserve it. Since more pollutants are produced today than ever before (because of the major increase in the population), there is a major concern that we create less pollutants to help conserve the ozone layer. In this research paper I will give vital information on how pollution affects the ozone layer and methods instituted to help the ozone layer. In this research paper you will also find out what the ozone layer actually is and the parts that it is composed of. The Earth's atmosphere is divided into several layers. The lowest region, the troposphere, extends from the earth's surface up to about 10 kilometers in altitude. All human activities take place in the troposphere. The next layer, the stratosphere, continues from 10 to 50 kilometers. Most commercial airline traffic occurs in the power part of the stratosphere. Most atmospheric ozone is concentrated in a layer in the stratosphere, about 15 to 30 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Ozone is a molecule containing three oxygen atoms. It is blue in color and has a strong odor. Normal oxygen, which we breathe has two oxygen atoms and is odorless. Ozone is much less common than normal oxygen. The ozone layer absorbs a portion of the radiation from the sun, preventing it from reaching the planet's surface. Most importantly, it absorbs the portion of ultraviolet light called UVB. UVB has been linked to many harmful effects including various types of skin cancer, cataracts, and harm to some crops, certain materials, and some forms of marine life. At any given time, ozone molecules are constantly formed and destroyed in the stratosphere. The total amount, however, remains relatively stable. The concentration of the ozone layer can be thought of as a stream's depth at a particular location. While ozone concentrations vary naturally with sunspots, the seasons, and latitude, these process are well understood and predictable. Records have been established spanning several decades that detail normal ozone levels during these natural cycles. Each natural reduction in ozone levels is followed by a recovery. Recently, however, convincing scientific evidence has shown that the ozone layer shield is being depleted well beyond changes due to natural processes. Thinning of the ozone layer has been caused by a variety of ozone destroying chemicals released by human activities. More than half the damage has been caused by chlorofluorocarbons. For over 50 years, chlorofluorocarbons,(CFCs), were thought of as miracle substances. They are stable, nonflammable, low in toxicity, and inexpensive to produce. Over time, CFCs found uses as refrigerants, solvents, foam blowing agents, and in smaller applications. CFCs and other compounds have atmospheric life times long enough to allow them to be transported by winds into the stratosphere. Because they release chlorine and bromine when they breakdown, they damage the protective ozone layer. In the early 1970's, researchers began to investigate the effects of various chemicals on the ozone layer, particularly CFCs, which contain chlorine. Potential impacts of other chlorine sources were examined also. Chlorine from pools, for example, do not reach the stratosphere. Those chlorine compounds readily combine with water and repeated measurements show that they rain out of the troposphere very quickly. In contrast, CFCs are so stable that they do not dissolve in rain. There are no natural processes that will remove the CFCs from the lower atmosphere. Over time, the CFCs are driven into the stratosphere by winds. It typically takes seven to ten years for CFC molecules to rise through the lower atmosphere and reach the stratosphere.. The CFCs are stable that only exposure to strong UV radiation can break them down. When that happens, the CFC molecule releases atomic chlorine. One chlorine molecule...
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