Scientists are celebrating – it’s the 25th anniversary of the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic. A strange cause for celebration you may think, but as the ozone layer protects us from 90 per cent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, we could be a lot hotter if it had gone undetected!

ozone_depletion1

In 1985, Joseph Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin, reported that the amount of ozone seen in the spring above the Antarctic had declined significantly year-on-year since the late 1970s. They linked this depletion in ozone to the use of industrial solvents and a rise in the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as refrigerants and propellants and their subsequent release into the atmosphere.

The Montreal Protocol in 1987, as well as support from chemical manufacturers and the public, led to the phasing out of CFCs, halons and carbon tetrachloride by 2000, and methyl chloroform by 2005. It is predicted that if the Montreal Protocol restrictions are followed, Antarctic springtime ozone levels could return to 1950s levels by 2080. The subsequent reduction in CFCs has also had a positive effect on climate change as they are potent greenhouse gases.

Mike Brown

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