December 5, 2023

The dominant narrative about the hole in the ozone layer of Earth’s atmosphere is that it is located primarily over Antarctica, has been exacerbated largely by industrial chemicals such as CFCs, and that new regulations beginning in the 1980s have helped control the threat.

But a new study now claims that a new ozone hole has been discovered year-round over Earth’s tropics, potentially exposing billions of people to higher doses of dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun.

“The presence of the tropical ozone hole may cause a major global concern,” Ching Bin Luo says, a scientist from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “Depletion of the ozone layer can increase ground-level UV radiation, which can increase the risk of skin cancer and cataracts in humans, as well as weaken human immune systems, reduce agricultural productivity, and negatively affect sensitive aquatic organisms and systems. environmental.”

All of this would be true, but the broader scientific community doesn’t seem to buy Luo’s research, which was Published this week in AIP Advances.

“It contains a lot of inference with gross errors and unfounded assertions, and it goes against previous proven results,” says Dr. Marta Abalos Alvarez of the Complutense University of Madrid. “Depletion of the ozone layer in the tropics is nothing new and is mainly due to the acceleration of the Breuer-Dobson rotation.”

The Brewer-Dobson trading It is a well-known pattern of atmospheric circulation that moves ozone away from the tropics toward the poles.

“The author’s identification of the ‘tropical ozone hole’ is due to him looking at percentage changes in ozone, rather than absolute changes, with the latter being more relevant to damaging UV radiation reaching the surface,” says Dr Paul Young of Lancaster University. Lead Author for 2022 Scientific assessment of ozone depletion From the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations.

Young notes that stratospheric ozone levels over the tropics have continued to decline since the 1987 Montreal Protocol that phased out CFCs, but rejects the author’s idea of ​​a new tropical ozone hole threatening the well-being of billions.

“The claim in this research for such large changes in ozone in the tropics has not been made explicit in other studies which makes me very skeptical,” adds Martin Chipperfield, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Leeds. “Science should never be based on just one study, and this new work needs rigorous validation before it can be accepted as fact.”

This is the only point on which Lu agreed, concluding:

“The current discovery requires more rigorous studies of ozone layer depletion, UV change, increased cancer risk, and other negative effects on health and ecosystems in the tropics.”

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