Research studies ozone, good and bad

Nov 08, 2007

Depending on its altitude, ozone can be either friend or foe. Thanks to new research led by The University of Western Ontario, scientists will now have a better understanding of ozone, its origin and the role – good or bad – it plays in polluting our atmosphere.

Ozone is a colourless, toxic gas named for the Greek word for smell because of its pungent odour.

In the stratosphere, acting as friend, it forms the ozone layer, which fends off harmful ultraviolet solar rays.

During pollution events, ozone turns to foe as it interacts with other pollutants, effectively generated by factories, cars and machinery, and descends from the stratosphere into the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere), where the ozone itself becomes a pollutant that damages forests, crops and human health.

In this week’s Nature, a study led by Western physics and astronomy professor Wayne Hocking reveals new discoveries about how ozone moves through our skies and how so-called “ozone intrusions” from higher altitudes can be monitored using a relatively simple radar instrument called a “windprofiler.”

The research suggests that “ozone-intrusion events” are associated with relatively sudden changes in the altitude of the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere (called the tropopause), which is usually found at an altitude of eight to 12 kilometres.

“We often blame humankind for the problems associated with the ozone layer and ozone pollution, and indeed we have to take responsibility for some significant effects, but this research shows that sometimes the effects we see are just nature in action,” said Hocking, who leads Western’s Atmospheric Dynamics Group, a research team that studies dynamical motions in the atmosphere at heights from ground level to 100 kilometres altitude.

The research was conducted by releasing balloon-borne, ozone-detecting instruments into the skies above Quebec and Ontario, while measuring tropopause height using windprofilers.

Source: University of Western Ontario

Explore further: Climate change does not cause extreme winters, new study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New ozone-destroying gases on the rise

Feb 16, 2015

Scientists report that chemicals that are not controlled by a United Nations treaty designed to protect the Ozone Layer are contributing to ozone depletion.

Researchers measure ozone-depleting bromine

Sep 10, 2014

How much does bromine affect stratospheric ozone? Answering this question is the primary objective of measurements by a multi-instrument gondola carried by a high-altitude balloon. The gondola accommodates ...

Natural ozone changes suggest good news for future

Apr 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —New NASA research on natural ozone cycles suggests ozone levels in the lowest part of Earth's atmosphere probably won't be affected much by projected future strengthening of the circulating ...

Recommended for you

Image: Aral Sea from orbit

Mar 27, 2015

This multitemporal Sentinel-1A radar image shows the Aral Sea, located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

IceBridge overflies Norwegian camp on drifting sea ice

Mar 27, 2015

Studying sea ice in the Fram Strait, a passage between Greenland and Svalbard that is the main gateway for Arctic sea ice into the open ocean, is not easy. In this area, not only does ice flow southward quickly ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.