Large-scale Australian fires damaged the Earth’s ozone layer

(ORDO NEWS) — The smoke from the strongest forest fires that raged in 2019 and 2020 in Australia reduced the density of the ozone layer over the southern hemisphere by 13%.

Wildfires in Australia were so bad they caused damage to the ozone layer

From November 2019 to January 2020, the worst wildfires raged in Australia, which provoked terrible consequences: they destroyed more than 70,000 square kilometers of bush, destroyed more than 3,000 houses and killed more than 30 people and billions of animals. At the same time, the smoke from them flew all the way to South America and caused the bloom of ocean algae.

However, scientists have discovered that unprecedented destruction on land and poisonous algal blooms in the water are not the only dire consequences to live with. Researchers from the Old Dominion University (USA) noticed that the smoke from the fires rose so high that it damaged the ozone layer.

How fires could damage the ozone layer

The scientists analyzed data from the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment satellite, which tracks the levels of important atmospheric molecules. The analysis showed that the level of ozone in the stratosphere decreased by 13% over the region of the southern hemisphere where the wildfires in Australia occurred.

Large scale Australian fires damaged the Earths ozone layer 2Australian bushfires in New South Wales, taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite on September 8, 2019

This happened because the smoke entered the stratosphere and reacted with chlorine-containing chemicals, which, in turn, got there due to human use of chlorofluorocarbons. The smoke has converted these chemicals into forms that are highly damaging to ozone – chlorine monoxide (ClO) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).

At the same time, smoke from wildfires usually does not rise to the stratosphere, but the wildfires of 2019-2020 were so ferocious that the smoke from them formed its own thunderclouds – “fire clouds” or pyrocumulative clouds. Because of them, smoke could enter the stratosphere.


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