Saturday, October 08, 2011

The record-breaking Arctic ozone “hole” and global warming

For years, polls have shown that many Americans have conflated two distinct atmospheric calamities – the destruction of the planet’s stratospheric ozone layer, and global warming. A 2010 poll by Yale University found that 21 percent of respondents believe the greenhouse effect refers to the ozone layer, rather than to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, such as carbon dioxide.

Now comes a study that helps describe the possible relationship between the two in a way that will either confuse even more people, or clarify things for anyone who devotes some time to fully digesting the new information.
According to research published in the journal Nature this week, the largest ozone “hole” on record above the Arctic opened up last winter, exposing residents of the Far North to high doses of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts. The area of severe ozone loss extended southward from the Arctic to cover populated areas in northern Russia, Greenland and Norway.
At first glance, you might not find much to be out of the ordinary about that piece of news, since the ozone hole has been in our science textbooks for decades now. But note that I said, “Arctic,” and not “Antarctic.”  Read More