The Coastal Post - May 2000

Stratospheric Ozone Holes Grow Like A Spreading Infection

By Jim Scanlon

While the losses over the Arctic this winter were not as severe as to be characterized as an "Arctic Ozone Hole" ---the northern hemisphere naturally has a thicker ozone layer than the south--- the losses were nevertheless substantial and worrisome.

Losses of over 60% occurred in the Arctic stratosphere as a result of one of the coldest winters on record. These cold stratospheric temperatures are a result of "global warming": that is, heat that was radiated back into space no longer does so, remaining trapped closer to the surface. These losses will affect Europe, Siberia, Alaska and Canada and points south this spring.

The decline in Arctic Ozone received limited coverage in the press and was described as the result of "new studies" --- even though the deplorable trends in the Arctic Stratosphere have been known in scientific circles for almost ten years The Coastal Post has reported on Arctic Ozone depletion since 1996. The comprehensive studies conducted by NASA and the European Union were more like studies confirming an observed trend.

Meanwhile in 1999, in Antarctica, the Ozone Hole keeps getting worse---it gets bigger and lasts longer. It closed rapidly last December---except for a remnant with measurements slightly over full "Ozone Hole values" which persisted over Wilkes Land, Central Antarctica, until February.

To put this new development in perspective, during the early 1990s, the "Ozone Hole broke up in October, then November, now December and into January and even February, and seems on its way to becoming a year round affair---like some kind of spreading infection.

The Arctic Stratosphere is now following a pattern of development similar to its elder Antarctic sibling.

Although the rate of increase of chlorine in the atmosphere has begun to decline somewhat, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, colder stratospheric temperatures at high latitudes, resulting from climate change, make less chlorine more efficient in destroying ozone, so that optimistic projections of the so called "recovery" of the ozone layer have been pushed back to 2040 and---you should live so long---will no doubt be pushed back further.

A report appeared recently on a CNN's Web Page of Native Americans living in Northern Canada, complaining of early melting of ice making travel difficult and the effect of diminished sea ice on seals and polar bears---hungry bears will no doubt begin attacking humans.

People are reportedly getting sun burned from the "hot sun" for the first time. Sun burning of people with darker skin would not be a result of warmer temperatures, but from increased amounts of short wave ultraviolet-B radiation reaching to the highly reflective surface from a diminished ozone layer.

Be careful of over exposure to sunlight this spring as sunburns can happen quickly and there are no public health advisories in Bay Area this time of year. If anyone knows of unusual sunburning, such as dark skinned people getting sunburned for the first time, please contact the Coastal Post.

Coastal Post Home Page