Much concern has been expressed about ozone and its link to global warming. This then impacts upon weather conditions including rainfall and potential flooding. The problem has been identified as has the various options for resolving the problem. These options require urgent international action.
The Ozone Hole
Ozone is an invisible gas, closely related to oxygen. It has a sharp, tangy smell, sometimes present during a thunderstorm. Ozone is made when the electric charge in a lightning bolt comes into contact with oxygen. Its location in the atmosphere defines whether it is harmful or not. Close to the ground, it is bad for us; 15-20 miles high, it is beneficial. Ozone pollution comes mainly from vehicle exhausts, resulting in smog in large cities - a world-wide problem.
The sun’s harmful ultra-violet (CUV) rays are blocked out by the all-important ozone layer around earth in the upper atmosphere. Skin cancer and decimation of marine life are the results of loss of this ozone layer.
The recent hole in this ozone layer, particularly above Antarctica, means mammals, such as seals and penguins, birds and fish, are all at risk. A further hole may be forming over the Arctic Circle near the North Pole.
Two atoms make an oxygen molecule, three make an ozone molecule. UV rays from the sun strike oxygen molecules high in the atmosphere and break them apart into separate oxygen atoms. The UV rays also break up ozone molecules, into 2-atom oxygen and 1 free oxygen atom. These free atoms unite again to form either oxygen or ozone. Normally, this natural cycle is in perfect balance. Man’s use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)has destroyed this balance. UV rays and CFCs break up ozone very quickly. One CFC molecule can destroy 10,000 ozone molecules and CFCs remain in the atmosphere for over 100 years. Air conditioners, cleaning fluids, fast-food containers made of plastic foam and spray cans all contribute to these dangerous CFCs. Air pollution traps the ground level ozone, preventing it from rising into the upper layer. Vehicle emissions are a major cause of this phenomenon, but we should all be aware of the spread of the problem and the dangers it poses for the future of life on earth.