Scientists develop new method to assess ozone layer recovery

Published in the magazine Natureof them method – Integrated Ozone Depletion (IOD) indicator – provides a useful tool for policymakers and scientists.

Image credit: PublicDomainPictures via PixabayCC0 . public domain

The IOD has been designed to provide a simple way to measure the impact of uncontrolled release of substances depleting the ozone layer and evaluate its effectiveness protect the ozone layer measures are.

The ozone layer is found in a region of the earth’s atmosphere called the stratosphere. It acts as an important protective barrier against most of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Ozone-depleting gases such as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, have been phased out over time. The Montreal Protocol – an agreed international treaty to protect the ozone layer.

The Montreal Protocol has been largely successful, but illegal violations will compromise its effectiveness.

The IOD indicates the impact of any new emissions on the ozone layer by looking at three factors: the intensity of the emission, how long it stays in the atmosphere, and the amount of ozone that is chemically destroyed.

For human health and environmental protection policies, the IOD represents a simple means of calculating the impact of any emissions scenario on ozone layer restoration.

This new metric was developed by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Cambridge and the National Center for Earth Observation at the University of Leeds.

Professor John Pyle, from the National Center for Atmospheric Science and the University of Cambridge, has dedicated his career to studying stratospheric ozone depletion and helping develop the Montreal Protocol. He is the current lead author of Nature.

Pyle, from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, said: “After the Montreal Protocol, we are in a new phase – assessing the recovery of the ozone layer. “This new phase requires new indicators, like Integrated Ozone Depletion – which we call IOD. Our new index can measure the impact of emissions – regardless of their size. Using a computer model of atmospheric chemistry, we demonstrated a simple linear relationship between the IOD, the size of the emissions, and the lifetime of the chemical. So with knowledge of life cycles, calculating IOD is a simple matter, making it a great metric for both science and policy.”

“The Montreal Protocol is successfully protecting the ozone layer, but there is growing evidence that the ozone hole is recovering more slowly than expected. The IOD would be very useful for monitoring the recovery of the ozone layer, and is particularly relevant to regulatory agencies that need to remove substances that have the potential to chemically destroy ozone.”

The IOD figures have been generated using a computer model of the atmosphere, known as the UK Chemical and Aerosols (UKCA) model. The National Center for Atmospheric Science and the Met Office have developed the UKCA model to calculate future projections of important chemicals, such as ozone in the stratosphere.

“We used the UKCA model to develop the IOD metric, which allows us to estimate the impact of any new illegal or unregulated emissions on the ozone layer. In the UKCA model, we were able to perform experiments with different types and concentrations of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances,” said co-author Dr Luke Abraham, also from the University of Cambridge, said. “We can estimate how chemicals in the atmosphere will change in the future and assess their impact on the ozone layer over the next century.”

Source: University of Cambridge

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