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It's official! CFC ban is shrinking hole in ozone layer, says NASA

06 January 2018, 04:40 | Bernard Bryant

It's official! CFC ban is shrinking hole in ozone layer, says NASA

It's official! CFC ban is shrinking hole in ozone layer, says NASA

Using data since 2005 from the Microwave Limb Sounder on the Aura satellite, scientists gathered information on the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is located.

The chlorofluorocarbons, referred by Strahan, are the ozone depleting chemicals that are used in aerosol sprays, blowing agents for foams and packing materials, and refrigerators. The pact was signed by 197 countries; later amendments to the Montreal Protocol completely phased out production of CFCs. The latest research - published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters - suggests the ban is working.

"We see very clearly that chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it", Susan Strahan, an atmospheric scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and one of the study's lead authors, said in a statement. CFCs are long-lived chemical compounds that eventually rise into the stratosphere, where they are broken apart by the sun's ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine atoms that go on to destroy ozone molecules, as NASA explains. In the 1980s, researchers measured worryingly low concentrations of ozone above the poles, confirming the predictions of previous CFC studies. The microwave technology specifically also allowed researchers to study gases during Antarctica's dark winters, as most satellites require sunlight to measure gases.

"During this period, Antarctic temperatures are always very low, so the rate of ozone destruction depends mostly on how much chlorine there is", Strahan said.

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The worry that we could lose this protective layer led to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which was ratified in 1987. apparently, back when everyone still believed in science and chemical companies had less power.

During the 1970s and '80s, it was reported that a class of industrial chemicals, the chloro-flurocarbons (CFCs), were damaging the ozone layer, a region of the stratosphere rich in this reactive form of oxygen. However, their study found that hydrochloric acid concentrations in the ozone hole were declining by comparison, by an average of 0.8 per cent per year. It's not a case of each annual ozone hole being smaller than the last, since there can be fluctuations from year to year, but the trend definitely reveals the decline.

"This is very close to what our model predicts we should see for this amount of chlorine decline", Strahan said. "This gives us confidence that the decrease in ozone depletion through mid-September shown by MLS data is due to declining levels of chlorine coming from CFCs".

Even if the results of the new study do hold true, scientists say it will take until at least 2060 for the hole in the ozone to vanish.

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