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Intro To Life Sciences: Protecting The Ozone Layer That Protects Life On Earth

5410 words - 22 pages

Protecting the Ozone PAGE 1
Protecting the Ozone Layer That Protects Life on EarthUniversity of PhoenixIntroduction to Life SciencesWord Count: 4,583Protecting the Ozone Layer That Protects Life on EarthOver the past few decades, researchers worldwide have been concerned about the gradual depletion of the ozone layer, which is the atmospheric layer in the stratosphere miles above the Earth that protects all life forms from harmful ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun. The ozone layer is necessary to protect life on Earth from overexposure to deadly sun radiation that could lead to skin cancer, eye cataracts, sunburn, premature aging, and other health concerns. Depletion of the ozone may ...view middle of the document...

NASAs website describes CFCs as "non-reactive, nonflammable gases and volatile liquids", and goes on to describe how they break-down the ozone layer:The non-reactivity of CFCs, so desirable to industry, allows them to drift for years in the environment until they eventually reach the stratosphere. High in the stratosphere, intense UV solar radiation severs chlorine off the CFCs, and it is the unattached chlorines that are able to catalytically convert ozone molecules into oxygen molecules. The term 'catalyst' is applied to compounds, which can be used repeatedly in a reaction without being consumed. This means that a small amount of catalyst can break down a very large amount of ozone. It is estimated that one chlorine atom can convert 100,000 molecules of ozone into oxygen before that chlorine becomes part of a less reactive compound, such as HCI, and eventually is precipitated out of the stratosphere by water vapor (Sparling, 2001).M.J. Molina and F.S. Rowland published a study in 1974 that demonstrated CFCs ability to breakdown ozone molecules in the presence of UV light, and subsequent studies estimated within 60 years the ozone would be depleted by as much as 7%. In 1978, the US reacted to these studies by banning the use of CFCs in aerosol sprays. Gradually, other nations also agreed to the aerosol ban, but an industry-wide ban on the use of CFCs in other applications was challenged (Sparling, 2001). As NASAs website explains:A large shock was needed to motivate the world to get serious about phasing out CFCs, and that shock came in a 1985 field study by Farman, Gardinar, and Shanklin. Published in Nature, May 1985, the study summarized data that had been collected by the British Antarctic Survey showing that ozone levels had dropped to 10% below normal January levels for Antarctica. The authors had been somewhat hesitant about publishing because Nimbus-7 satellite data had shown no such drop during the Antarctic spring. But NASA soon discovered that the springtime "ozone hole" had been covered up by a computer program designed to discard sudden, large drops in ozone concentrations as 'errors'. The Nimbus-7 data was rerun without the filter program, and evidence of the ozone hole was seen as far back as 1976 (Sparling, 2001).A number of studies have since confirmed the hole in the ozone layer as well as a global decrease in ozone by as much as 5.5 % between 1969 and 1993 (Sparling, 2001). By September 2000, a satellite image from NASA showed the hole had grown so large it extended over the tip of South America ("Atmospheric Waves Help Northern Ozone, Hurt Southern", 2001).Ironically, while most CFCs are produced in the Northern Hemisphere, the hole in the ozone layer has formed in the Southern Hemisphere over the Antarctic. An article in Today's Science magazine titled Atmospheric Waves Help Northern Ozone; Hurt Southern explains why this phenomenon has taken place:NASA scientists claim that giant pressure waves created by land features...

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