(ORDO NEWS) — The newly discovered ozone hole is seven times the size of the Antarctic ozone hole.
A new ozone hole has been discovered over tropical regions of the Earth, and it remains open all year round, which the researchers behind the results say is a “big global problem.” The hole is believed to have been open since the 1980s.
The tropical ozone hole has been discovered using a combination of observational data along with cosmic ray driven electronic reaction models, together revealing physical mechanisms over the tropics that reflect conditions in the polar ozone hole over Antarctica.
Ozone holes are defined as areas where the loss of O3 (trioxygen, an inorganic molecule) is about 25 percent greater than in the surrounding atmosphere.
They pose a threat to human health because they increase levels of ultraviolet radiation on the Earth’s surface, exposure to which can increase the risk of skin cancer, among other diseases.
This ozone hole, reported in the journal AIP Advances, is seven times the size of the Antarctic ozone hole. Located above the tropics, it exposes most of the world’s population to an increased risk of developing various diseases.
“The tropics make up half the planet’s surface area and are home to roughly half of the world’s population,” University of Waterloo scientist and author Qing-Bing Lu said in a statement.
“The existence of a tropical ozone hole could be of great global concern.”
Since the mid-1970s, scientists have recognized the role of man-made industrial chemicals in ozone depletion.
Thus, chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs, the main culprit) were banned. Unfortunately, their effects on the ozone layer seem to be continuing.
The hole over the tropics differs from the hole over Antarctica not only in its huge size, but also in its seasonal stability. The Antarctic ozone hole cycles seasonally, losing most of its O3 in September and October.
In contrast, the ozone hole in the tropics persists throughout the season, meaning that those below it are at risk of being exposed to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation year-round.
“Ozone depletion could lead to an increase in terrestrial ultraviolet radiation, which could increase the risk of skin cancer and cataracts in humans, as well as weaken the human immune system, reduce agricultural productivity, and adversely affect sensitive aquatic organisms and ecosystems,” Lu said.
“The present finding warrants further rigorous research into ozone depletion, ultraviolet radiation alteration, increased risk of cancer, and other negative health and ecosystem effects in tropical regions.”
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