Ozone Crisis – An Erupting Volcanic Issue

By David Schussler

 

The ozone layer and the ozone hole have been causing worldwide consternation for about thirty years. In 1973 when The National Research Council, in conjunction with the Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources, published the results of computative studies alluding to a problem, it set fire to a community and world populous whose awareness on environmental issues was already heightened, verbal, and mobilizing. Today we live with the fear of an ongoing “ozone crisis,” the guilt that we could have averted it, and the financial and industrial burdens of meeting EPA mandates for safer chemicals, equipment, and technology.

Just what is ozone? What is the ozone hole? Why is it of such concern to us?

Ozone is a “blue gaseous allotrope of oxygen formed naturally from diatomic oxygen by electric discharge or exposure to ultra-violet (UV) radiation” (Webster’s 7th College Dictionary). Ozone is present in the upper atmosphere, lower atmosphere, or ozonosphere (as it is commonly called), in small amounts and prevents most of the solar radiation that can be harmful to animal and plant life from reaching the Earth’s surface.

Some studies show that the ozone layer seems to have substantially decreased over certain parts of the globe causing increased UV radiation. For instance, researchers of Environment Canada in Ontario say that the UV radiation in the Toronto area alone increased from seven to thirty-five per-cent each year between 1989 and 1993.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong of France’s International Institute of Research on Cancer said in 1990 that “excessive UV radiation suppressed cell-mediated immunity and was likely to lead to an increase in naturally acquired infections. The result could spark a rise in AIDS, measles, and tuberculosis cases. The number of skin cancers and eye cataracts could also increase.”

Another theorized result of diminished ozone is the compounded effect on global warming, especially with regard to the melting of the polar ice cap and potential world flooding.

Actual measurements of the ozone layer, thickness, density, or size of openings in it were virtually impossible during the early years of detection.The best early ozone detection and measurement results, which were compiled from 1950 to 1975 by the British Antarctic Survey, were antiquated. Researchers had only been able to create computer laboratory models of the Earth and its atmospheres in order to try to estimate depletive possibilities and/or consequences. Not until the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) satellites were installed in space by the USA. in 1978 and the USSR in 1991 was there any hope of accurate measurement and tracking of the ozone layer. Those satellites failed for various reasons and had not been re-activated as of 1994. Current space station and satellite technology have given us better information and recent history.

Although some studies show that the ozone layer seems to have substantially decreased over certain parts of the globe, the changing weather patterns over a thirty year period have revealed large year to year changes in the winds and temperatures making it difficult to derive definitive ozone trends.

The venting of chloroflourocarbons (CFC’s) into the atmosphere was assumed by many to be the greatest cause of thinning of the ozone layer. CFC’s were released primarily with the use of spray cans, through the process of air conditioning and refrigeration, and by industrial cleaning processes the majority of which has been terminated over the past ten years. Conversely, calculations in ozone changes in the lower stratosphere (below 30 km.) due often to various types of industrial or seasonal agricultural emissions tend to cancel CFC induced reductions of the ozone in the upper stratosphere. (Committee on Causes 1994)

In 1985 it was discovered that nearly half of the ozone over Antarctica had “disappeared” (The Antarctic Ozone Hole 1985). Since that discovery it has been determined that the diminishment has been there perhaps forever. According to ongoing scientific studies, the hole comes and goes seasonally as part of the natural cycles of our planet and its atmosphere. Alluding to the warming effect related to the ozone diminishment over the pole, it has been determined that the area of Antarctica has been growing measurably smaller. Over the past 30 years, however, it has also been determined that the ice cap has been growing geometrically thicker with little or no loss in mass.

The protection of our atmosphere, whether it is the one we are sitting in or the one thirty miles above us is extremely important for us. Awareness of and responsibility for our actions that could be detrimental to the holistic ongoingness of life is essential.

Are our actions depleting this life sustaining ozone layer, and should we live in fear for our future?

Recent volcanic eruptions have reminded the scientific community that natural occurrences have a far greater effect on our planet and its population than hundreds of years of human abuse could possibly have. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Phillipines in 1991 covered 38% of our atmosphere with its volcanic ash. This drastically changed weather patterns and contributed at that time to the depletion of the ozone layer. There have been many eruptions in the past three centuries alone that have been far greater and have had greater consequences (The Earth Changes Report 1994). Currently volcanic eruptions are occurring in Washington State, New Guinea, Montserrat, Japan, Alaska, Italy, Congo, Russia, Hawaii, Ecuador, just to name a few. Some are spewing huge amounts of gasses into our atmosphere. Http://volcano.und.eduvwdocs/current_volcs/current.html

According to science and our common sense it is obvious that the effects of mankind’s errors with regard to pollution of all kinds, i.e., CFC’s, chemical emissions, hydrocarbon fuel emissions, etc., is unhealthy and harmful to us in many ways. It is also obvious that nothing we mere humans do can compare to the Earth’s natural phenomena and capacity for correction and recovery. The Earth with one natural rumble and roar can disturb the atmosphere more than a thousand years of man’s ineptness could. Sure, the ozone layer and the ozone hole do exist and it remains important that we as stewards of this planet do all we can to protect it and our lives upon it. In summation, it is useless to fear a thinning ozonosphere but we still have to change our wasteful polluting ways (which is just common sense for our well being) and remember not to panic and overreact in ways that hurt our societies even more.

American Institute of Biological Sciences. June, 1990

Fisher, David E. “Fire and Ice”, 1990

“Key Ozone Mappers Fail.” Aviation Week, 1993

United States Committee on Causes and Effects in Stratospheric Ozone, 1994

 

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