The Coastal Post - May, 1996

European Ozone Hole Still Being Ignored

BY JIM SCANLON

The stratospheric ozone hole that hovered over the Arctic for two months early this year was the deepest, most intense and long-lasting in the Northern Hemisphere yet! A combination of very low temperatures and high concentrations of ozone-destroying chemicals worked together to produce record low ozone readings as far south as southern England.

Nevertheless, the event was not covered by the top two science magazines, Science and Nature, or the general print and broadcast media—with the exception of New Scientist and the Coastal Post. An excellent article was put out on its wire service by Associated Press but the story was either not picked up or greatly reduced in size and content.

Why? Who can say. Stock market investors are susceptible to any non-optimistic news and larger newspapers tend to filter out information perceived as business-negative.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole is reported on in great detail although it affects relatively few people in a small isolated market. An Arctic Ozone Hole which affects some 80 million people is, essentially, not reported on.

Because the sun's rays are relatively weak in late winter and early spring, the increase in more energetic, shorter wavelengths of ultraviolet light would not be expected to be as strong as they are later in the year, and in the short term, not very harmful with the exception of snowy areas where reflection is great.

Ozone depletion is speeded up by very cold stratospheric temperatures. Since the Antarctic is much colder than the Arctic, ozone depletions are worse there. However, stratospheric temperatures have been measured going down, possibly due to heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere with the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. If the heat gets trapped in the troposphere it doesn't get to the stratosphere which then cools, allowing ozone to be more efficiently destroyed.

It is speculation, at this point, if the unexpected appearance of such a severe ozone depletion is an anomaly or the beginning of a trend, as happened in the Southern Hemisphere.