“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” - Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Aquinas College

Ozone Depletion

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The Antarctic Ozone Hole
Image courtesy of the United States Environmental Protection Agency

There is currently an enormous hole in the stratospheric ozone (O3) layer 25 miles above the North and South Poles. The depletion of the ozone is due mostly to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), along with other chlorine compounds, bromine compounds, and nitrogen oxides. These compounds literally pull one of the oxygen atoms off the three oxygen atom compound, leaving O2 (the oxygen we breathe) and a free oxygen atom. The result is an ever increasing hole in the protective ozone layer.

Stratospheric ozone typically blocks 99% of incoming ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the insidious cause of skin cancer. With a thinning and disappearing ozone layer, we can expect an increase in skin cancer, increase in the lethality of malaria and influenza, increase in the spread and/or severity of a number of diseases, and a decrease in the effectiveness of immunization in humans. Ecosystem effects can also be expected, such as a disturbance in the number of phytoplankton, the base of most aquatic food chains (which provide sustenance for one in five people on this planet).

Links

"The Ozone Hole Tour"- The Centre for Atmospheric Science

The Centre for Atmospheric Science is a joint venture between the Departments of Chemistry, Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Geography at the University of Cambridge, UK. The site contains a very interesting tour of the ozone hole, a comprehensible explanation of ozone and depletion, a useful glossary of terms, and links for further information.

CIESIN Thematic Guides

The purpose of this guide is to help beginners find selected key documents that pertain to the issue of ozone depletion: causes, human and environmental effects, and policy responses. This guide also contains an overview that provides general background on key concepts and issues related to ozone depletion.

Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)

The purpose of this site is to provide data and resources in the areas of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, ozone, and human health impacts of UV exposure for use by researchers, educators, government officials, health providers, students, and the general public. The site contains extensive resources for beginners and professionals in ozone science, including a searchable index containing over 3,300 citations of journal articles, conference presentations, books, and other periodicals.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA site is extremely useful because it organizes information on the depletion of the ozone into categories for the general public and for businesses.

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