This phenomena is commonly referred to as the “ozone hole,” but simply put, there is no physical hole in the ozone layer, but instead a drastic thinning above Antarctica.
The ozone layer is known for protecting the Earth and all it's inhabitants from the Sun’s UV rays. Many tests have been conducted to determine what side effects UV light has on different plants, and the results have shown that most life on Earth is not meant to come in contact with UV rays.
Thinning over Antarctica has always occurred because of weather conditions and patterns during winter. The numbers of ozone molecules fluctuate naturally throughout the year and return to their previous strength, but the worry now for scientists is the fact that the ozone is being destroyed much more rapidly than it is produced because of pollution.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are chemicals commonly found in aerosols and have been used heavily in the past 50 years by most industrial nations. It has been discovered that when these CFCs reach the upper atmosphere, UV rays cause them to break down into substances that include chlorine and bromine.
During the cold months of the Antarctic winter, these chlorine and bromine substances as well as Cl2 (chlorine gas) are formed. When sunlight returns to the region in October, chlorine is released, tearing the ozone molecules apart, depleting them dramatically. The ozone layer then stabilizes until next spring.
The use of CFCs has decreased dramatically after it was linked to the “hole” in the ozone layer, but it is still used daily in many different forms. Everything from refrigeration units, air conditioning, foam blowing devices, electronic component cleaners and solvents use CFCs.
A paper by the United Nations states that the ozone hole is now gradually repairing itself, but conservation efforts cannot stop. If we bring CFC usage back to its original numbers, the ozone layer will continue to thin, destroying Earth’s main protection against harmful rays from the Sun.
At the current rate of recovery, the ozone layer will completely recover in the next fifty years.
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