Mysteries of ozone depletion continue 25 years after the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole

Aug 30, 2011
Susan Solomon, Ph.D., delivered the Kavli Foundation Lecture at the ACS 242nd National Meeting & Exposition.

Even after many decades of studying ozone and its loss from our atmosphere miles above the Earth, plenty of mysteries and surprises remain, including an unexpected loss of ozone over the Arctic this past winter, an authority on the topic said here today. She also discussed chemistry and climate change, including some proposed ideas to "geoengineer" the Earth's climate to slow down or reverse global warming. The talk happened at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held this week.

In a Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture, Susan Solomon, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that the combined efforts of scientists, the public, industry and policy makers to stop ozone depletion is one of science's greatest success stories, but unanswered questions remain. And ozone is still disappearing.

"We're no longer producing the primary chemicals — chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — that caused the problem, but CFCs have very long lifetimes in our atmosphere, and so we'll have ozone depletion for several more decades," said Solomon. "There are still some remarkable mysteries regarding exactly how these chlorine compounds behave in Antarctica — and it's amazing that we still have much to learn, even after studying ozone for so long."

The ozone layer is crucial to life on , forming a protective shield high in the atmosphere that blocks potentially harmful ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Scientists have known since 1930 that ozone forms and decomposes through chemical processes. The first hints that human activity threatened the ozone layer emerged in the 1970s, and included one warning from Paul Crutzen, Ph.D., that agricultural fertilizers might reduce ozone levels. Another hint was from F. Sherwood Rowland, Ph.D., and Mario Molina, Ph.D., who described how CFCs in aerosol spray cans and other products could destroy the ozone layer. The three shared a 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for that research. In 1985, British scientists discovered a "hole," a completely unexpected area of intense ozone depletion over Antarctica. Solomon's 1986 expedition to Antarctica provided some of the clinching evidence that underpinned a global ban on CFCs and certain other ozone-depleting gases.

Evidence suggests that the has stopped getting worse. "Ozone can be thought of as a patient in remission, but it's too early to declare recovery," said Solomon. And surprises, such as last winter's loss of 40% of the over the Arctic still occur due to the extremely long lifetimes of ozone-destroying substances released years ago before the ban.

Solomon also took listeners on a tour of gases and aerosols that affect and described how these substances can contribute to global warming.

"On the thousand-year timescale, carbon dioxide is by far the most important greenhouse gas produced by humans, but there are some other interesting — though much less abundant — gases such as perfluorinated compounds that also last thousands of years and similarly affect our climate for millennia," said Solomon.

Increases in atmospheric "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide trap heat in the , causing the Earth's temperature to creep upward. Global warming is causing ocean levels to rise and could lead some regions to become dry "dust bowls."

Dealing with has prompted a lot of interesting research on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, how to adapt to a changing climate and on the possibility of 'geoengineering' to cool the climate.

"Recent studies on 'geoengineering' the Earth's climate involve stratospheric particles of different sorts," she said. "Most of these schemes involve sulfate particles, but other types have been proposed."

The talk took place on Monday, August 29, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Mountain time in the Wells Fargo Theater at the Colorado Convention Center.

Sponsored by The Kavli Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports basic scientific research, the lectures are designed to address the urgent need for vigorous, "outside the box" thinking by scientists as they tackle the world's mounting challenges, including climate change, emerging diseases, and water and energy shortages.

"We are dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research, and supporting scientists and their work," said Kavli Foundation President Robert W. Conn in a statement. "The Kavli Foundation Innovations in Chemistry Lecture program at the ACS national meetings fits perfectly with our commitment to support groundbreaking discovery and promote public understanding."

The Kavli lectures debuted at the Anaheim meeting in March during this International Year of Chemistry and will continue through 2013. They will address the urgent need for vigorous, new, "outside-the-box"- thinking, as scientists tackle many of the world's mounting challenges like climate change, emerging diseases, and water and energy shortages. The Kavli Foundation, an internationally recognized philanthropic organization known for its support of basic scientific innovation, agreed to sponsor the lectures in conjunction with ACS in 2010.

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User comments : 19

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Shootist
2.1 / 5 (14) Aug 30, 2011
Ozone was the 80's AGW.

CFCs did not form the 'ozone hole'. Yet, you idiots, allowed, nay, encouraged, Leviathan government to ban the inexpensive and extremely useful refrigerant, Freon. You replaced it with a less efficient and more expensive alternative. Ain't that just like the Left? Shame.

Beware the scam of Carbon Trading. Beware the mistake of AGW.

Shakescene21
3.7 / 5 (9) Aug 30, 2011
@ Shootist

The vast bulk of scientific opinion is that CFCs really did cause the ozone hole. Even most of the chemical companies agreed. Tell us about your alternate theory -- maybe you deserve the Nobel Prize instead of Krutzen, Rowland, and Molina.
jamesrm
3 / 5 (6) Aug 30, 2011
Don't argue with the troll report him, this is a science site if the powers that be don't remove blatant rantings by tea-tard loons there is something wrong, the fact the world came together to limit the use of CFC sticks in the craw of his ilk.

I think booth my reply and that of Shakescene21 should be removed as well.
Truthforall
3.3 / 5 (6) Aug 30, 2011
Although CFC might linger on for some time, it will not disappear and reappear to cause damage. The fact that the hole in the ozone layer has mended and is reappearing, is course for rethinking the mechanism involved. Is the hole caused by another agent or partly natural?
Not that CFC is not to be blamed, but one must keep an open mind and be forever vigilant in exploring new ideas which is the corner stone of modern science, however unlikely in the eye of conventional consensus.
Shelgeyr
1.9 / 5 (7) Aug 30, 2011
Given the location of the "hole", and the nature of ozone itself, I would bet that if not entirely then at least substantially the "polar opening" is yet another example of an electrically caused torus effect.

If that's the case - and I'm not asserting that it is, merely suspecting and wishing someone with the ability to look into it actually do so - then the impact of CFCs could range from a high of "the torus wouldn't exist without them" to a low of "they don't apparently have anything to do with the hole after all".

I'm not certain where I stand on this, except to say that a large chunk of the research seems to be missing (to quote Pyle) in my sporadically informed opinion.
Deesky
4.5 / 5 (11) Aug 31, 2011
I would bet that if not entirely then at least substantially the "polar opening" is yet another example of an electrically caused torus effect.

What the heck is an 'electrically caused torus effect"?
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2011
@Deesky,

Im thinking mainly something like this:
Atmospheric Structure
http://www.ifa.ha...ere2.pdf
See pages 4 and 5.

Also in no particular order:

Plasmasphere Response: Tutorial and Review of Recent Imaging Results http://enarc.spac...shed.pdf , See especially Page 7, under Intra-Magnetospheric Plasma Coupling

Electromagnetic Torus Knots
http://arxiv.org/...22v1.pdf
Covers the entire range of the Torus Knots set.
See page 3, 6, and 7 for graphic examples

Magnetospheric Interactions with Satellites
http://www.igpp.u...Ch21.pdf
See graphics on page 11

Hydrogen atom in crossed electric and magnetic fields: Phase space topology and torus quantization via periodic orbits
http://arxiv.org/...13v1.pdf
Page 4, upper right corner

That kind of thing...
farmerpat42
3.5 / 5 (4) Aug 31, 2011
Don't argue with the troll report him, this is a science site if the powers that be don't remove blatant rantings by tea-tard loons there is something wrong, the fact the world came together to limit the use of CFC sticks in the craw of his ilk.

I think booth my reply and that of Shakescene21 should be removed as well.


Your blind adherence to AGW/Ozone-issues is no different than his blind adherence to anti-AGW/etc.

Skepticism is a good thing. Don't forget that all of this research is still backing theories and that theories are mutable, changing things. A real scientist would realize that and encourage challenges.
Truthforall
4.3 / 5 (3) Aug 31, 2011
Very interesting. However unless the Earth's magnetic field has fluctuated substantially (which can easily be chceked) I do not see reason to assume that it is a significant contributor to the hole in the ozone layer.

Assuming that CFC is lingering on to cause damage, as Solomon proposed, but evenly distributed and has no particular reason to concentrate above the poles, then the hole must exists because ozone is thinner at the poles to begin with or that there is another major player yet hidden.

If it is thinning related than it would imply that the Sun is respopnsible. Less UV less production of ozone.
If yet another unidentified agent is responsible then past research has to be rewritten or at best be amended.
Shelgeyr
1 / 5 (3) Aug 31, 2011
I do not see reason to assume that it is a significant contributor to the hole in the ozone layer.


I'm not assuming that it - wait a minute... You got me.
I *am* assuming that it is (or rather, might be) a significant contributor. What I'm NOT doing is assuming I'm correct. Instead, I'm betting I am and would love to see further research in this area because I haven't found enough evidence to either support or defeat the idea. On balance, I'm probably wrong about all this (it wouldn't be the first time), but I have been unable to prove myself wrong.

Here's how I see it:

Ozone is (as I understand it) a charged gas. As such, I don't know if it can technically be classified as plasma, but it wouldn't stun me to learn it behaves in a similar fashion. If this is NOT TRUE, then my particular train of thought derails, and there's no reason to go further.

But, if it is true then I bet there's a connection to what drives the Aurora Australis.
GSwift7
3.2 / 5 (5) Aug 31, 2011
Ozone is constantly created and destroyed by nature (daily). The poles naturally tend to favor ozone destruction over ozone creation for several reasons. The poles are relatively isolated from the rest of the atmosphere by the arctic circulation as well. All of those factors lead to the poles naturally having less ozone than elsewhere on the planet. The amount of ozone created and destroyed at any give location will vary from year to year. It is not unusual for the poles to become ozone depleted. Here's a fairly good basic explanation from:

Dr. Ken Rubin, Professor
Department of Geology and Geophysics
University of Hawaii


http://www.soest....ole.html

So, you can all stop with the wild conjecture. Try a google search first please. We've had lots of volanos this year. Mystery solved?
GSwift7
2.5 / 5 (4) Aug 31, 2011
The link I posted is common knowledge, textbook stuff that I've seen dozens of times from other sources. I have no idea why the above article seems to think there is some mystery.

They really lost me when they said:

some proposed ideas to "geoengineer" the Earth's climate to slow down or reverse global warming


After reading that I knew it was time to go make popcorn because there's some hollywood quality fiction on the way. There have been several really bizzar stories released from this conference in the past week. Have any of you seen some of the other ones? Really strange stuff.
Shelgeyr
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 31, 2011
Try a google search first please.


Oh gosh, that just never occurred to me! [/sarcasm]
Truthforall
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2011
I have been unable to prove myself wrong

I am not challenging your view on the role of Earth's magnetic fieled. It has to have some effect on any ionized particle. I merely opined that the effect of its fluctuation might not be able to account for the hole in the ozone layer which I take was either the result of lower rate of ozone production or higher rate of destruction. I disregarded the weather factor because it would be pointless for an expert like Solomon to write this article if weather is to blame.

It is not unusual for the poles to become ozone depleted.

If the quote is true then what's Solomon's article about? Is she drawing attention to inadequacy or mistake in present understanding (that nature has a bigger hand) or just another "wolf" cry?

GSwift7
1.5 / 5 (4) Sep 01, 2011
Truthforall:

Yeah, I'm not sure what she is talking about. Maybe it is related to her funding source or the organizers of the confernece. I haven't looked them up, so I have no idea if that is true or not, so don't jump on me if that's wrong. Maybe she was just misquoted by whoever wrote or edited the article. That does happen.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2011
"What the heck is an 'electrically caused torus effect"?" - Deesky

It is what you get when a fool inserts a thumb up it's backside and pulls out a meaningless phrase.

ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) Sep 04, 2011
I had heard that the ozone hole and the ozone layer were substantially recovering.

http://www.scienc...3645.htm

I guess it has a long way yet to go.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2011
I had heard that the ozone hole and the ozone layer were substantially recovering.


They probably are, but don't confuse short term variability with long term trends. There's a chance that it was recoving but develping countries could be doing damage again, so it could be in trouble again. It's hard to say in just a couple of years which should be bad for ozone by natural causes anyway. It'll be a few more years before we have anything cocrete in that regard. Even if it jumps back up next year, that doesnt mean it is recovering.

I guess it has a long way yet to go


maybe, maybe not. wait for the data and stop guessing. give it enough time to know. the Western countries are already doing a LOT to manage it. If it is still declining, then the third world and developing nations need to do thier part too. the US is certainly not lacking in CFC regulations. We have let the world in that. Gold star for us. :)
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2011
let = led. stupid wireless keyboard.

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