This week’s lead story highlights the perils of basing policy decisions on speculative computer models. It seems that the ozone layer isn’t healing as predicted after all, so the dangers of man-made CFC radiation are still with us. And if radiation doesn’t do the job other computer models now tell us that melting permafrost threatens us with death from mercury poisoning. And if neither happens the forthcoming magnetic pole reversal spells the demise of civilization as we know it. Lots more energy and climate-related stories in this bumper Blowout, too numerous to synthesize, but read on and enjoy anyway. They’re not all bad.
In the 1980s, scientists discovered a large hole in the ozone layer, exposing the Antarctic to far higher levels of UV radiation than other parts of the planet.
Aerosols and refrigerators were blamed for spewing ozone-depleting substances like chloroflurocarbons (CFCs). The Montreal Protocol agreement of 1987 led to the phasing out of CFCs and the first signs of repair in the upper stratosphere over the Antarctic.
But, for reasons as yet unknown, ozone seems to be disappearing from some parts of the lower stratosphere, a study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics has found. Study co-author Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, explained in a statement: “The potential for harm in lower latitudes may actually be worse than at the poles. The decreases in ozone are less than we saw at the poles before the Montreal Protocol was enacted, but UV radiation is more intense in these regions and more people live there.” The results were a surprise to authors and defy the expectations of current models. “The finding of declining low-latitude ozone is surprising, since our current best atmospheric circulation models do not predict this effect.”
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