Ever since we discovered the hole in the ozone layer, nations have banded together to do what we can to repair it. Our efforts even seemed to be working, as the protective layer in our atmosphere has been slowly growing back. Unfortunately, that may not be the whole truth.
An international team of 22 scientists on Monday submitted a report, claiming they weren’t sure if the ozone layer is actually recovering the way we expected.
“We’ve detected unexpected decreases in the lower part of the stratospheric ozone layer, and the consequence of this result is that it’s offsetting the recovery in ozone that we had expected to see,” said William Ball, a scientist with the Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos, Switzerland.
Back in 1987, countries all over the world signed the Montreal Protocol, a treaty to phase out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were found to be largely responsible for destroying our ozone layer in the stratosphere. It clearly worked, because the levels of CFC in our atmosphere have gone down, and the ozone hole over Antarctica did heal early on.
Unfortunately, according to the study conducted by Ball and his colleagues, that hasn’t been the same for the ozone layer over lower latitudes, where humans live. In fact, they found that these areas showed a small decline in ozone levels in the lower stratosphere since 1998. The upper stratosphere, meanwhile, has continued to recover.
Researchers believe this could be because of changes in the circulation of air in the stratosphere, which has caused the ozone to disperse in these areas. That could be just another effect of climate change. However, others are more worried it’s because of new types of chlorine-based compounds being used for industrial purposes. Unfortunately, these aren’t covered by the Montreal Protocol because of how short-lived they are, but their effects are still visible.
That too isn’t scientific fact just yet, but it’s a valid theory – one that’s worrying environmental researchers everywhere. Until we can be sure how it all affects our ozone layer and its recovery, it’s a danger to all of humanity.