The ozone layer is part of the atmosphere above the Earth’s surface, and plays a crucial role in life on Planet Earth by absorbing most of the ultraviolet radiation rays from the Sun. Over the years, the use of certain substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—in aerosol sprays, air-conditioners, and more—have caused severe damage to the ozone layer. In fact, the damage grew to such heights that scientists discovered a large hole in the protective layer in 1985.
As such, the world (or at least, most of the world) came together to form the Montreal Protocol of 1987—a collaborative effort by countries in the United Nations to fix the damage by replacing/reducing the use of ozone-damaging CFC products. Now, it appears that the efforts have come to fruition.
According to a new study that was published on Nature, the damage to the Earth’s protective layer could be reversed, with researchers saying that the ozone hole is shrinking due to the aforementioned treaty. According to Antara Banerjee, the lead author of the study, changing patterns in air circulation around the world indicate that continued efforts to “fix” the ozone hole could result in full recovery within the next few decades for certain regions.
“The jet stream in the southern hemisphere was gradually shifting towards the south pole in the last decades of the 20th century due to ozone depletion.”
“Our study found that movement has stopped since 2000 and might even be reversing. The pause in movement began around the same time that the ozone hole started to recover.”
Different regions will be affected differently
According to Banerjee, the shifting jet stream caused by air circulation patterns has been at a pause since 2000 due to the combined effect of the recovery of the ozone layer and rising CO2 gases. The study found that this pause coincided with the recovery of the ozone layer—although different regions all around the globe will be affected differently, environment-wise.
Prior to the year 2000, researchers noted that Australia was seeing drying winters due to the movement of the jet stream towards the south, taking rainfall away from the region. Now, increased environmental stability could prove beneficial for the region. However, there are also adverse effects. The depletion in the ozone layer over South America actually led to more rainfall, which helped the agricultural industry across the continent—now, that economical growth might halt, or slow.
Still, the findings of the study bode well for the war against climate change, including global warming. As Banerjee explains, current results offer proof that environmental damage can be reduced, even reversed, through the collaborative work of the human population.
“That’s a lesson to us all that can hopefully be applied to our greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change. If we keep adhering to this protocol then the ozone hole is projected to recover – at different times, in different parts of the atmosphere.”