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Antarctic Ozone Hole Leveling Off 353

Posted by Hemos
from the getting-smaller dept.
twistedfuck writes: "An Irish Time article reports that the size of the hole in the antartican ozone layer is levelling off and should begin reducing in size. It seems like it should be welcome news but it is tempered by the fact that more UV radiation will reach the southern hemisphere this year because the hole will persist longer. Unfortunately I can not find any details regarding the NOAA report on their website." Update: 11/06 17:31 GMT by H :Thanks to Isaac Lewis, NOAA Sysadmin and Slashdot reader, for pointing out more information, as well as pointing out the ozonelayer site.
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Antarctic Ozone Hole Leveling Off

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  • by bonzoesc (155812) <bkerley AT brycekerley DOT net> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:49AM (#2526487) Homepage
    Are we to believe that this reduction in size is a result of global regulation of CFCs, or could it possibly just be part of a natural cycle? Too bad we didn't get satellites before styrofoam.
  • by Jingle Returno (531353) <AltecFinancial@SertyUnifiedFront.org> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:15AM (#2526532) Homepage
    Thus, the issue of whether the global ozone layer shows a steadily depleting trend is still controversial.

    Taken right from the essay. Although I would agree with you in that I'm not totally convinced on the issue of 'ozone layer depletion' either, it is interesting to see that this article begins with a scientific basis of 'the uncertainty' of research on ozone layer cause and effect and quickly progresses to the fact that it costs lots of money to phase out 'potential' ozone depleting chemicals and whether or not it is in the US's interest to stay in potentially expensive environmental pacts.

    I think one of the key things that we have come to realize at the end of this century is that many of the large scale phenomena we witness here on Earth are the products of an extremely complex and often non-linear series of events. Our technology has reached the point where it can and often does cause serious changes to our environment. One of the problems with the point of view that this essay takes is that it neglects 'precaution' in favour of the idea that we should be more concerned with short term economical gain.

    If something has the potential to possibly cause damage, isn't it more logical to stop using it? Even if we are only right 1 in 10 times on whether something can cause damage to the environment, I would rather waste the money controlling the nine than sweeping the one under the rug.
  • by Powercntrl (458442) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:29AM (#2526561)
    Back in '92 (I believe - not sure), most new air conditioners started being manufactured with CFC-free refrigerants. The "new" coolant requires different tolerances in the compressor and evaporator systems. What this means (as anyone who has tried to retrofit an older car air conditioner with CFC-free coolant can tell you) is that the new coolant doesn't work as well in older systems. This has actually created a black market for the older coolant (freon, as I recall) from countries where it is still manufactured.

    If this research is correct, the coolant switchover and strict rules regarding the recovery of waste freon have probably played a part in the improvement. Even if this is an inconvience for auto A/C mechanics, it's a small price to pay to preserve our valuable ecosystem.

    So if you're driving an older car and your recharged air conditioner doesn't seem as cold as you remember it, you're right. But you're helping save the enviorment.

  • Re:Press Release (Score:1, Insightful)

    by linatux (63153) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:31AM (#2526565)
    considering CFC's were largely phased out before we knew about an ozone hole, I would say neither luck nor good management had anything to do with it.
  • by mrwilsox (174578) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:31AM (#2526566)
    You're right, we're not going to destroy the earth in a little over two centuries. However, we are making great strides toward making the earth very, very hard to inhabit for humans (and a number of other critters). If we just let things keep on going as they are and use up all of our fossil fuels and spew pollution into the air, land, and sea, the earth won't be a great place to live for us. But you better believe Mother Nature wouldn't care one bit if humans disappeared forever. Earth itself would keep on living, with other species remaining and probably a lot happier that we're gone.
  • by dragons_flight (515217) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:33AM (#2526569) Homepage
    Sunlight naturally converts some oxygen to ozone in the upper atmosphere. Problem is that when CFCs and other chemicals are present, they eat up ozone far faster than it is typically produced.

    Ozone is harder to produce and easier to break down when it is cold, which is one reason ozone is at its lowest levels over the poles in winter (also when there is a deficit of sunlight). The poles are also especially vulnerable because global wind patterns circle around them rather then refreshing the air. Even the most stubborn air pollutants will break down or become absorbed by the environment if we stop pumping them out and give the Earth time to get back to normal.
  • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @04:30AM (#2526660) Homepage Journal
    I thought that weather patterns tend to not cross the equator...

    If that's true (and even if it's not), why is the ozone hole over the ANTARCTIC? Aren't most of the CFC/ozone-eating gases being emitted in the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE? Why isn't there one over the arctic?
  • by Cato the Elder (520133) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @05:14AM (#2526724) Homepage
    Ahh, false humility.

    Sure, human beings populate only a small bit of the Earth's surface (and an even smaller portion of its volume). An atom bomb takes up very little space vis a vis the area it destroys, or a virii in the hosts they kill.

    You should take a look at a photo of Earth from space, at night. See all the glowing splotches? Those are human cities, pumping light into space. We know how to leave a mark.

    Oh, sure, we can't "control" the weather. That doesn't mean we don't influence it. It takes a lot less skill to wreck a car than to drive it well.
  • by D Anderson n'Swaart (453234) <dominic@submail.net> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @06:24AM (#2526803) Homepage
    Disclaimer: since this is a blatantly off-topic post, I have already modded myself down (no +1 bonus). Hopefully this is an intelligent enough post that those nice cracked-out modders will find some more worthy flamebait or trolling.

    You're right, of course. I hadn't thought this through very thoroughly, which was why I was careful to state that it was the trend of thinking in New Zealand, rather than my own opinion. As with many things in New Zealand (GE food being a major one), the good old Green Party uses ignorance and fud to spread misinformation, which turns into zealotry and close-mindedness much more easily than reasoned facts and rational evidence. It's amazing how many New Zealanders have nearly no conception of the real facts and information behind the issues they hold such vehement opinions on, and how they don't even question the emotive positions they take from those who should know better. Not that this is a New Zealand-specific thing; as long as humans are human this will continue to be the case.

    Every time I see mass demonstrations against GE food I wish that the media would actually inform people on the issue instead of simply commentating on the opinions that different parties hold. I guess that's one reason I'm studying journalism next year...

    Completely off-topic, I know. Sorry.

    Getting back (vaguely) to ozone holes etc, another poster mentioned the need for alternate energy sources. I figured I'd reply in this post; basically I couldn't agree more. It would make a decent difference to the global warming problem (at least if we believe the majority of the scientists involved in the study thereof), it would probably make some impact on the ozone hole problem (although this seems to be improving, probably due to such things as the Montreal Protocol), it would wean Usia off oil long before shortage became a problem (and this would probably quickly expand to the rest of the first world), and it would also ensure that premature shortage due to tensions in the Middle East wouldn't cause as much damage as is potentially possible. It would probably also lead to a number of offshoot technological and scientific advances that may otherwise not happen for many years yet.

    Frankly (and once again completely ot), I think there's basically only one thing in Bush's little brain. Money. And unfortunately, he's not smart enough to think long-term money either. Oh, and anyone wanting to flame me for "flaming" Bush...just think of all the speeches he has muffed. One of the speeches he made directly after the 11.09 attacks left me cringing as he completely screwed up a relatively common English word, then did it again, then corrected himself, and then did it again. Not the mark of a superior intellect to me.

    The problem is, if the US doesn't lead the world in the adoption of alternate energy, cleaner-burning fuels etc, who will? Other countries still make the attempt, but the US is the world's most powerful economy by far. We need them if this is going to work.

  • Re:Press Release (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @07:08AM (#2526850)

    I would like to make two counter-points:

    1. If the hole HAD been over the equator (I know, it couldn't have been), you can bet there would have been a lot more pressure to do something, and quick. It would have brought home to the world how much damage we can do to ourselves through capricious pollution. Millions of third-world people affected with a deadly, lingering, and expensive-to-treat disease would have been a rude awakening. Then again, HIV in Africa is effectively ignored by the media, so maybe I'm wrong on this one.

    2. There wasn't a lot of support for banning CFCs early on in the campaign. Prince Charles was mocked for his stand against them. The same people who claim that deforestation/carbon output/industrial pollution is no big problem now claimed that all this anti-CFC stuff was nonsense, bad science, and hippy-talk. It took actual observations of the hole by Antarctic researchers, solid backing by environmental scientists, and popular support before things got changed.

    I don't think things have changed much, so I don't take this news as any sign that we've changed our thinking. Too many people have an interest in making a quick buck at the expense of future quality of life on this planet.

  • by Asic Eng (193332) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @07:28AM (#2526889)
    I think what he may be referring to, is the fact that cars require a lot of energy to produce.

    So the environmental impact of replacing a working car is: impact of building new car - (impact of running new car - impact of running old car).

    How that works out, would depend on how long you run the car, how much you drive and a whole lot of other factors.

  • by Stelmsind (119787) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @07:35AM (#2526893)
    Which volcano in the Phillipines poured out CFCs? I'd be very interested in hearing about a volcano that poured out chemicals that do not naturally occur! CFCs are manmade - they are no naturally occuring CFCs.

    The hazards we now associate with CFCs were discovered in the 1960s when a British chemist (Lovelock) was interested in tracing the motions of air masses. He was using CFC's to do so, as they were ideal for tracing air motions, being chemically stable and not naturally-occurring (they are only man-made) so their presence in an air mass could not be confused with CFC's coming from natural sources.

    Perhaps you are thinking of the theory that volcanic chlorine caused ozone depletion? There are a number of problems with this:

    (1) There was significant O3 loss in the 1980's, but no major volcanic activity then.

    (2) There has been major volcanic activity since O3 monitoring began in the 1950's, but it was not necessarily associated with declines in O3. That is, O3 losses and volcanic activity appear to be uncoupled in time (lack temporal consistency)

    (3) Measures of hydrogen chloride in the stratosphere after the relatively recent eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo and El Chicon showed less than a 10% increase in stratospheric HCl following those eruptions, while stratospheric HCl has increased steadily across recent years. Furthermore, it is estimated that 1% of the Cl released by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo Cl made it to the stratosphere, judged by the increase in HCl in the stratosphere following the eruption and the estimated release of Cl by the volcano.

    (4) Stratospheric hydrogen fluoride has also increased steadily in parallel with HCl, as would be consistent with CFC sources.

    (5) Much of the HCl produced by volcanoes (or Cl from sea salt) is injected into the troposphere and very little of that makes it to the stratosphere, as it is washed out first. Volcanic emissions include abundant water vapor, and HCl and NaCl are quite soluble in water, while CFC's are not.

    (6) Most of the HCl that does make it to the stratosphere is rapidly washed out -- that is the major removal mechanism for Cl from the stratosphere.

    (7) After volcanic eruptions, scientists find enriched sulfate in ice caps, suggesting that the eruptions inject sulfate into the stratosphere, where it gets widely distributed before being washed out. However, ice caps are not enriched with Cl following volcanic eruptions, suggesting that most Cl doesn't make it to the stratosphere where it could get dispersed as sulfate does.
  • by mperrin (41687) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @08:13AM (#2526943) Homepage
    Just as a flame-worthy side note, there is a lot of antagonism in New Zealand towards the US because of Bush's decision to boycott the Kyoto(sp?) Protocol.

    Yes well. There's a fair amount of antagonism to Bush about it up here, too, especially from those of us who (a) didn't vote for him, and (b) don't think he actually won the election. I personally make a great effort to "live green" even if it involves some personal sacrifice (spending more $$ to buy environment-friendly products, etc) and I wish our semi-elected leadership was willing to do the same.

    You're absolutely right, it's a damn shame Bush is telling everybody else to shove off about Kyoto. I only hope the rest of the world is strong enough to say "screw you!" right back at him and keep on implementing the treaty. I firmly believe you guys are doing the right thing, and I know many other Americans do too...

  • Great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by andy_from_nc (472347) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @08:34AM (#2526967)
    You know those fine men in Washington are going to use this as evidence that there is no need for tougher environmental laws. Not that they'll understand the difference between global warming or the ozone hole or what have you.

    Can someone find this study and maybe post a link? Have there been any reports of corrolation between the reduction in the use of CFCs in many countries and the leveling off of the hole or was it a natural phenomenom after all.

    To the guy in NZ who talked about the anamosity toward the US for backing out of the Kyoto treaty. We're all feeling very patriotic, but you please remember a majority of the folks in this country did NOT vote for Bush and co. We voted for a guy who thought (according to his book) Florida would be under water in a few years if we didn't do something about the environment! Didn't like either of them, but I vote a bit on the enviromental side with a strong streak of anti-relgious fundementalism. I think pulling out of the Kyoto treaty even if you DIDN'T agree with its premise was a mistake because it dishonored our country. We played a big part in setting the thing up then canceled at the last minute. For that I am truely sorry.

    Unfortunately, due to recent events it will be a number of years before we'll pay a great deal of attention to the environmental problem. It may be a number of year before we link the gas prices with all of us buying SUV's that get 8 miles a gallon (not me!), but we will..hopefully before we melt the place.

    -Andy
  • by LazyDawg (519783) <lazydawg AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @08:43AM (#2526979) Homepage
    Ok, here's the deal:

    Stratospheric ozone is created by bombarding normal, happily breathable O2 mollecules with ultraviolet light, splitting the O2 into a pair of O1's. These O1's eventually bump into another O2 mollecule and create O3. Big woop.

    Where there is solar UV light, you'll probably see some ozone popping up. Since the Antarctic Desert is in the dark for a good chunk of the year, you'll discover a not-too-surprising lack in stratospheric ozone over winter and well into the Spring. Also not surprisingly, we have an ozone hole over the north pole.

    Over the north pole, of course, there isn't quite as extreme a desert as over the south, and there are more large land masses nearby to carry air better.

    Back in the 30s when the first weather measurements were taken in Antarctica they found almost identical levels of UV light hitting them as during a modern winter. Greenies prefer to depend on climactic models rather than empirical evidence these days, however, so their multi-million dollar research is stating the problem is getting bigger, even if someone else's multi-thousand dollar research is saying the opposite.

    The ozone hole is the result of too many people putting faith in government, who can't predict the future more than a few weeks down the road, and weather men, who can't predict the future more than a few days down the road, and expecting their government-funded computer models to be able to predict the future years down the road.
  • by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@CURIE ... minus physicist> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @09:09AM (#2527015)
    Just a quick question:

    If you, as an individual can make an effort to live "green", which I must say is a nice effort to be making, than why can't we all?

    If we can all do that, why do we need government to force us?

    More than anything, government can regulate industry and keep them from destroying the world. But more than anything, as individuals, we must do our part. I am very tired of seeing "greens" who drive a nice lovely Ford truck on the way from the suburbs to work everyday, and then complain about the cost of filling up!

    More than anything, if environmental change is going to occur, individuals must change their lifestyle. All the government is useless if not for the actions of the people.
  • Good point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Uttles (324447) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <selttu>> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @09:17AM (#2527022) Homepage Journal
    I agree with your statements, and I've read similar articles in scientific periodicles. Those articles, however, are usually well hidden and no longer than half a page, because they aren't very popular. So why is rational thought about the O-zone not popular? Well it's not sensationalist, it doesn't give people something to "fight" for, and people who are "environmentally concious" just hate to admit that they are wrong.

    Another thing that I don't think you touched on, our climate goes in cycles. I don't recall the exact dates, but I know that some time ago in recent history (1960's maybe?) all of the popular scientists were warning of global cooling. That's right, the earth was getting too cold and there was going to be another ice age if people didn't do something about it. Our climate is not as stable as some would imagine, and contrary to popular beleive we humans have nothing to do with it. Yes, in large cities there is smog, but that is a microclimate just around the city, and it dissipates in the atmosphere and goes away eventually, doesn't affect the global environment. The global climate is something that is very dynamic and not easily understandable. One thing is for certain though: there is no proof that we have a problem with the O-zone layer.
  • Give me a break! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Slashdolt (166321) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @09:33AM (#2527053)
    Ummm... It's a lot sunnier in Australia. Even on a clear day in Pennsylvania, you still have A LOT of moisture in the atmosphere, which blocks a lot of the radiation.

    Perhaps you should be comparing Arizona with Australia.
  • Re:WTF?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bluGill (862) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @09:50AM (#2527083)

    Global warming is a fact,

    True. But you can't forget the fact that global tempatures are currently lower then average. Leaving "the little ice age" (1200-1800) would account for global warming.

    Of course the question is then is there are problem. I can't answer that. Everything feeds everything else. When we burn a drop of oil is affects how the trees grow and things like that. Forest fires are a significant cause of polution, and the well ment, but disasterious smokey the bear (Only you can prevent forest fires) program has ment that in the previous centry there were less of them. Volcanios when they errupt make up the large majority of the polution released that year.

    So is there a problem or not? I can cite lots of facts. There is no way to know without controlled expiriments lasting for several million years. Even if we had the patience to see such a study through, we don't have the ability to construct several idenitical solar systems, complete with suns and planets, so we can't control the variables. Even if we could construct such systems we can't alter orbits of the planets at will, we can't prevent/cause solar flares, and we can't cause volcanos. (Even if we could, could we do it without introducing anouther variable?) Facts are easy, figgureing out what they mean is hard.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @10:03AM (#2527123) Homepage
    Environmentalist's concern about the ozone layer and the hole in the atmosphere brought about the end to natural CFC's (freon) being used throughout the world....when the volcano in the Phillipines erupted it was reported that more CFC's poured into the air than the U.S. could in a hundred years.

    If you got your news from something other than right-wing talk radio and press releases from toxic chemical manufacturers, you might know that there are no natural CFCs in any substantial quantity on this planet.

    Volcanic eruptions can put chlorine into the atmosphere. But that's meaningless, because chlorine isn't chlorofluorocarbon, and doesn't reach the statosphere [epa.gov].

    It's amazing that anti-ecological industrial propaganda has become so widespread that otherwise intelligent people believe shit like this.

  • by lenshead (215106) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @10:17AM (#2527166)
    The ozone hole was discovered back in 1958 by the British Antarctic Survey. At the time, they saw it as a natural phenomenon caused by the South Atlantic Vortex -- a well established air movement pattern.

    Now, there may be some real science behind CFCs and ozone depletion. The original lab work that demonstrated the chemistry was real. However, most of the material that comes my way about CFCs in the atmosphere seems more like spin than science. Maybe someone here can point us to some more measured and competent publications than I have been able to find.

    Before we jump to too many conclusions about all the anti-CFC material, we should bear in mind it is standard practice for corporations to seek methods for making obsolete materials for which the patents have expired. Some creative lobbying and legislation is a great way to stop third-world companies turning out your products on the cheap.
  • by Wire Tap (61370) <frisina.atlanticbb@net> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @10:32AM (#2527223)
    On the polar cap melting:
    This will probally cause the next ice age ;)

    Wait, how is the MELTING of the ice caps going to result in another Ice Age? I think you have that the wrong way around...

  • NOAA ozone site (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Isaac-Lew (623) <isaaclew@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @12:41PM (#2527745)
    As some of you may or may not know, I am the system administrator for www.noaa.gov [noaa.gov] (the webserver, not the whole organization). Ozone information can be found on:


    [noaa.gov]
    http://www.ozonelayer.noaa.gov


    BTW - for anyone that cares, the ozonelayer site runs on a Linux box :).

  • Re:Both! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:09PM (#2528381) Homepage

    Individuals are often conscious of environmental issues, but company executives who have oil fields destroying the earth whilst living comfortably in Aspen typically just don't care.

    Executives are individuals too, and corporations are owned, operated, and staffed by individuals. Companies do the things that they do because their customers (individuals!) tell them what to do: people (individuals!) buy gas guzzling SUVs because they like them - no one is forcing them to do so, and suggesting that the reason is "greedy corporations" is ludicrous. People (individuals!) buy the bigger SUV, not the more efficient one, because the bigger one is cheaper - no one is forcing them to spend less money, they just want to.

    Suggesting that individuals care and corporations don't is inane and a refuge of the weak willed; corporations do what it takes to make a profit by providing individuals with the goods and services they want at the lowest price possible. Individuals do now and always have had the power to influence what corporatios do, by voting with their dollars (or euros or pounds or rupees etc) If you want a "greener" world, then you need to convince other "individuals" that they should be willing to pay for it, and you need to put your wallet where your mouth is. Don't try to absolve yourself by passing the buck to the "greedy corporation"; it is the collective decisions of millions of individuals that dictate what those corporations do.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI

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