Ozone hole study linked to global climate change

Feb 4, 2013 | Biz/Tech

By Sarah Lennox


By Ben Holt – National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (NASA (Image galleries)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A hole in the Antarctic ozone has led to intensified winds and, as a result, the ocean’s circulation and absorption of atmospheric gases have been affected, according to a study published in Science Magazine Feb. 1.

A team of scientists led by Darryn Waugh, an earth scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, studied ocean flow and measurements of chlorofluorocarbon-12 from the early 1990s to the late 2000s.

CFCs were common in aerosols, refrigerators and air-conditioning units until the Antarctic hole in the ozone was discovered in 1985, according to an ABC Science article on the study.

The 1989 Montreal protocol phased out the harmful compound in an attempt to repair the damage to the ozone, ABC Science reported.

Kimberly Strong, professor in the department of physics at the University of Toronto, said we still have a ways to go before the ozone is fixed.

“With our measurements now, we can actually see the concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere decreasing and that’s a good thing,” Strong told Humber News.

“[CFCs] do stay in the atmosphere for 50 years or so. We’re not seeing ozone recovery yet,” she said.

Strong said that the hole in the ozone layer appears every spring, which, for the Antarctic, occurs in September and October. The hole keeps the ozone from filtering the sun’s UV rays and it allows for stronger winds to speed the flow of the ocean’s waves.

“Oceans do absorb heat and carbon dioxide and so on, so if there are changes in them, that may change how much the oceans can absorb [atmospheric gases],” she said.

Antarctica may seem far away, but Strong said the hole in the ozone affects the global climate.

“There are multiple lines of evidence that the climate is changing,” she said. “You can choose to believe them or not, but there’s plenty of evidence of many different kinds that we’re seeing of climate change.”

Kira Burger, outreach and communications coordinator for the Otesha Project, a group whose goal is to promote sustainable lifestyles, told Humber News that Canada’s climate is affected by the ozone in Antarctica.

“I would say that we have lots of examples to demonstrate how, globally, we’re completely interconnected,” said Burger. “I think that it’s absurd to assume something happening in one part of the world wouldn’t have a spinoff affect somewhere else.”

Strong said the general consensus is that the hole in the ozone layer will recover around the middle of the century.

In the meantime, Burger said there are plenty of things people can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

“I think that on an individual level, people can be conscientious about the kinds of lifestyles that they lead, the kinds of resources they consume, the kinds of products they’re purchasing and consuming, and what policies and practices they’re supporting in those behaviours,” she said. “Using our citizen power and our consumer power, we can also become more involved and engaged in community initiatives that are happening in local politics and global politics, ensuring that we’re informing ourselves and advocating for policies and practices that we think are going to move us in a positive direction.”