Outdoor FunWeather 101

The Ozone Layer: What It Is & How The Ozone Layer Protects You

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By Joshua

You’ve probably heard about the ozone layer — maybe in the news, in an article, or perhaps you’ve even heard your local weatherperson mention it at one time or another.

But what is the ozone layer?

How does it protect you?

What are we doing to protect the ozone layer?

The Ozone Layer

So, what is that ozone layer everyone talks about?

Ozone is a type of gas, and the ozone layer is where much of this gas sits in the stratosphere.

The ozone layer helps protect us here on earth by blocking out some of the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet light.

Though ozone is a type of greenhouse gas (which is often associated with global warming), the ozone layer is key to making life easier and safer for us.

How Spray Cans Hurt The Ozone Layer

Many years ago, common household items like spray cans, air conditioner refrigerant, and certain cleaning agents contained a set of chemicals called chloroflourocarbons (usually called just CFCs).

Why did we use CFCs? Because CFCs are non-flammable and generally non-toxic.

By the early 1970s, scientists discovered chlorine (a chemical in CFCs) had the potential to destroy ozone. By the mid ’80s, a ‘hole’ in the ozone layer was found.

What’s The Ozone Hole?

While we have come to refer to loss of ozone in the ozone layer as a ‘hole,’ the ozone hole actually is an area of reduced ozone density — it’s not literally a clear hole in the sky.

The ozone hole, which is concentrated mainly over Antarctica, grows and shrinks throughout the year.

Why does the hole change over the year?

Because winter winds over Antarctica form clouds made of ice crystals; chemical reactions in these clouds release CFCs into the stratosphere, and the CFCs go to work at destroying ozone.

How We’re Plugging Up The Ozone Hole

Thankfully, ozone can restore itself. It just takes time. Several major international moves to ban CFCs and help replenish the ozone layer have been at work since the 1980s.

The most famous, and perhaps most important, initiative of all came in the late ’80s, with the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol, signed by most of the world’s countries, is a pact that ensures the elimination of CFCs.

If all keeps going as it is now, the ozone layer should be able to restore itself by sometime in the middle of this century.