The Coastal Post - May, 1997

Silence On Rise In European Ultra-Violet Radiation

By Jim Scanlon

Last June the Coastal Post reported on a dramatic reduction in stratospheric ozone over Europe during March 1996. New Scientist, the only significant main stream publication to mention the event, actually used the term "Springtime Arctic Ozone Hole."

The area of depleted ozone stretched from Alaska, across Canada, the Northern Atlantic, Scandinavia to Siberia and as far south as the British Isles where a 50 percent decline was reported

Ozone is considered important because it blocks out energetic short wave ultra-violet radiation from our sun which damages living things. It has long been claimed that for every percentage point of reduction in stratospheric ozone, there is a corresponding increase of from one to two percent in ultra-violet.

In 1996 there was no mention of any increase in measured ultra-violet radiation on the surface of the earth, even though there exists a network of ultra-violet B radiation monitoring stations throughout Scandinavia. In addition, Western Europe has a large number of scientific institutes well equipped to directly measure surface ultra-violet rays.

For example, a 10 percent depletion in stratospheric ozone might be expected to increase shorter wave ultra-violet by from 10 to 20 percent and so on. While the sun is fairly weak in winter at 50 to 60 degrees north latitude, there are often clear, sunny days and sunshine might be expected to be strong in March especially if the sunburning levels increased by from 50 to 100 percent, as one would expect with a 50 percent decline in ozone.

Since snow and ice reflect sunlight intensifying the effect of ultra-violet rays, one might expect unsuspecting humans to have suffered facial burns and snow blindness.

To date the media silence on ozone depletion continues in parallel to the scientific silence on ultra-violet. (The motto for all forms of denial is "Don't Ask , Don't Tell")

The April 1, 1997 (this is not a joke- see letters) issue of Geophysical Research Letters exemplifies this silence. (Evidence of substantial ozone depletion in winter 1995/96 over Northern Norway. Vol 24 No 7).

The report by scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Atmospheric Research states, "...extremely low ozone values were observed in Northern Norway throughout most of the winter 1995/96 until mid of April. The extent of the ozone depletion, its duration, its development in time and altitude, and comparison with model data imply that chemical destruction of so far unreached size in the arctic, was the main reason for this development."

There is no mention of ultra-violet radiation levels on the surface, although the Institute has (and has had) access to a network of Robertson-Berger Sunburn Meters across Norway and Sweden which produce such data.

Furthermore, one of the authors (Dahlback) has conducted studies on ultra-violet levels, generally, as listed in the references, and in South America (Patagonia) where the Springtime Antarctic Ozone Hole passes over populated areas. He appeared in the Documentary on ozone depletion made by Brian Hackney of KGO TV in 1992, and has a cooperative research relationship with scientists at the Universidad Magallanes in Punta Arenas Chile.

The US Government had a network of ground based ultra-violet monitors which produced the only long term survey of ultra-violet radiation (Scotto et al, Science 239, Sept. 1988) however that network was orphaned and defunded. Millions of dollars have been spent on a replacement since 1990 but, to date is not in existence.

It seemed clear and now seems clearer, that scientists are unwilling or unable to produce ground based measurements of ultra-violet on anything except a sketchy basis. Why this should be is an interesting question perhaps related to fear of defunding.

In the absence of factual information on measured levels of surface ultra-violet radiation which definitely exists but is being deliberately withheld by a diverse group of scientists, one can only speculate that the information would be dangerous and disturbing because it is either too alarming, or because the levels are essentially insignificant and would expose a scientific consensus to ridicule.