Ozone Hole Over Antarctica Is One of the Biggest in 15 Years
The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is one of the largest and deepest in the past 15 years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Tuesday.
The ozone hole over Antarctica usually starts to grow in August and reaches its peak in October, The Associated Press explained. This year, it peaked at 24 million square kilometers (approximately 9.3 million square miles) and is now at 23 million square kilometers (approximately 8.9 million square miles), the WMO said. This means the hole is larger than the average for the past decade and extends over most of Antarctica.
"With the sunlight returning to the South Pole in the last weeks, we saw continued ozone depletion over the area. After the unusually small and short-lived ozone hole in 2019, which was driven by special meteorological conditions, we are registering a rather large one again this year, which confirms that we need to continue enforcing the Montreal Protocol banning emissions of ozone depleting chemicals," Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the EU's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) at ECMWF, said in the WMO press release.
The #ozone hole over the #Antarctic is one of the largest and deepest in recent years, per @CopernicusECMWF,… https://t.co/k8DUe65iqV— World Meteorological Organization (@World Meteorological Organization)1601986657.0
The ozone layer is important because it protects the earth from dangerous ultraviolet radiation, CAMS explained. In the late 20th century, that layer was damaged by the human release of ozone-depleting halocarbons, which the Montreal Protocol of 1987 sought to control.
But the size of the ozone hole every year is also impacted by specific weather conditions. This year, a strong polar vortex has chilled the air above Antarctica, and consistently cold air creates the ideal conditions for ozone depletion.
"The air has been below minus 78 degrees Celsius, and this is the temperature which you need to form stratospheric clouds — and this quite (a) complex process," WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis said at a UN briefing reported by The Associated Press. "The ice in these clouds triggers a reaction which then can destroy the ozone zone. So, it's because of that that we are seeing the big ozone hole this year."
Specifically, the ice can turn nonreactive chemicals into reactive ones, the WMO explained. Light from the sun then triggers chemical reactions that deplete the ozone layer.
The Montreal Protocol has been hailed as an example of effective international collaboration on a major environmental problem. Last year's hole over Antarctica was the smallest it has been since the hole was discovered, but this was due to unusual weather, not emissions reductions, ABC News reported.
"There is much variability in how far ozone hole events develop each year," Peuch said in the WMO release.
The 2018 hole was also on the larger side.
Still, the WMO and the UN Environment Programme determined in 2018 that the ozone layer was on the road to recovery and could return to pre-1980 levels over Antarctica by 2060.
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- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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