The Earth

What Is and How Important Is the Ozone Layer?

The ozone layer is the part of the Earth's atmosphere that contains relatively high concentrations of ozone (O3). An ozone molecule is made up of three oxygen atoms. The oxygen molecules we breathe are made up of just two oxygen atoms.

What is and how important is the ozone layer?

Absorbs 97 to 99% of solar radiation, which is harmful to life on Earth. It is mainly found in the lower part of the stratosphere at an altitude of approximately 13 km to 40 km, but its thickness varies according to the season and the geographical area.

Ozone occurs both in the Earth's upper atmosphere and at ground level. The ozone molecule is harmful to air quality. EPA regulations help states reduce ozone levels in outdoor air.

Hole in the Ozone Layer

The ozone hole is a place in the ozone layer where ozone concentrations are much lower than usual.

The ozone layer prevents a large amount of ultraviolet radiation from the sun from reaching the Earth's surface. Otherwise, solar radiation would cause damage to all living species. The destruction of ozone would completely alter the meteorological conditions on Earth.

Pole Ozone Holes

The ozone layer is thinner in the polar areas. The reason is extreme cold and large amounts of light.

One of the largest ozone holes was located in the Arctic with a concentration of ozone that has not been detected since 2011. It was generated in May 2020. Surprisingly, the ozone hole in the Arctic was closed a month later as reported by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The closure was due to the presence of air with high concentrations of ozone due to the division of the polar vortex.

Here we leave you an interesting article about an ozone hole over Antarctica with a surface similar to that of Serbia.

Ozone Distribution

The thickness of the ozone layer is divided according to a major factor in the world, which generally decreases near the equator and increases towards the pole. It also varies by season, and is thicker in the spring and thinner in the fall at the North Pole in principle.

Most of the ozone is found in the middle at high latitudes in the northern and southern hemispheres. The highest is in spring and not in summer, and the lowest in the northern hemisphere in autumn, not winter.

In winter, the ozone layer actually increases in depth. This puzzle can be explained by the prevailing stratospheric wind patterns known as Brewer-Dobson traffic. While most of the ozone is created above the tropics, stratospheric traffic then transports it to the lower stratosphere at high latitudes.

What Causes Holes in the Ozone Layer?

The main causes of holes in the stratospheric ozone layer are found in chlorine, bromine, and nitrogen compounds. These products negatively influence the concentration of ozone molecules.

These products are ozone-depleting chemicals:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are derived from the obtained saturated hydrocarbons. They are obtained by replacing hydrogen atoms with fluorine and / or chlorine atoms.

  • Halons were gases used in fire fighting.

  • HCFCs were created to replace CFCs. In this product, not all hydrogens have been replaced by chlorine or fluorine.

  • Methyl bromide

These gases destroy the ozone layer and are mainly used as:

  • Refrigerants in refrigerators and air conditioners

  • Dry clean.

  • Aerosol sprays

  • Fire extinguishing agent.

  • To make foams.

  • For disinfecting the soil (methyl bromide).

The use of these products has dropped considerably worldwide. This is due to the measures agreed in the Montreal Protocol in 1990.

In addition to the substances that contain chlorine and bromine, other substances are also important for the ozone layer. For example nitrogen compounds.

Is There a Relationship Between the Ozone Layer and Climate Change?

The concentration of ozone in the ozone layer is related to climate change. This relationship exists both in terms of effects and causes.

Depending on where it is in the atmosphere, ozone affects life on Earth. Ozone in the stratosphere is formed naturally through the interaction of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation with molecular oxygen (O2).

Greenhouse Gases

Many substances that deplete the ozone layer are also powerful greenhouse gases. Some of these substances remain in the atmosphere for tens or hundreds of years.

Impact on Wind Patterns

The destruction of the ozone layer, therefore, also contributes to changes in wind and weather patterns.

The stratosphere is cooled by both the dilution of the ozone layer and the emission of greenhouse gases. This allows wind patterns to change in the stratosphere, but also in the troposphere and near the Earth's surface.

Impact of Cold on the Thickness of the Ozone Layer

At the same time, the cooling of the stratosphere also affects the thickness of the ozone layer.

In the upper stratosphere, this leads to a slower decomposition of ozone and, therefore, to a faster recovery of the ozone layer.

In the lower stratosphere, the effect is not yet clear and may lead to faster or less rapid decomposition of ozone. Despite the interaction of the ozone layer with climate change, the recovery of the ozone layer to pre-1980 levels will be dominated by declining concentrations of ozone-depleting substances.

Recovery Rate of the Thickness of the Ozone Layer

Climate change can influence the rate of recovery, as well as the final level to be reached. Climate change can lead to an accelerated and delayed recovery.

The influence of climate change may be different at the poles where ultraviolet (UV) radiation is lower than at moderate latitudes.


Published: June 28, 2020
Last review: June 28, 2020