Ozone Depletion and the Ozone Hole – Assignment Example

The paper "Ozone Depletion and the Ozone Hole" is an outstanding example of an assignment on environmental studies. Located in the Antarctic, the ozone hole was discovered in 1985 by a group of British Antarctic Survey scientists. The ozone hole is not really a “hole” as such, but a decrease in the concentrations of the ozone gas in the earth’s stratosphere. One of the biggest concerns is that this depletion will result in an increased ultraviolet radiation on the earth’s surface, as the ozone absorbs most of the UVB, thus limiting its penetration into the earth surface. This will, in turn, increase the chances of cancer and other health hazards in humans and animals, and may also affect crops. The chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have played a major part in ozone depletion. Found in refrigeration and propellant machinery, the CFCs are highly stable compounds that can survive in earth’s lower atmosphere for many years. Eventually, some of the atoms float up to the stratosphere where the ultraviolet light reaches them and breaks the Chlorine atom from the bonded compound. The Chlorine atom, in turn, sets off a series of chemical reactions that destroy the ozone; what is more, the Chlorine atom remains unaffected by the reactions and then goes back to set another set of chemical reactions, and, thus, the cycle continues. What has caused the ozone layer to be depleted in the Antarctic is its unusual weather conditions; due to the polar darkness in winter, the stratospheric winds get cold enough for clouds to form, even in the absence of moisture, this results in a chain of unusual chemical reactions that convert the inactive Chlorine into Chlorine gas, which is then involved in the above catalytic reaction. Consequently, the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty, was signed and ratified by all the countries of the world, in an effort to protect the ozone layer by outlawing substances – especially CFCs – that are harmful to the ozone layer.