Arctic Ozone Loss

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

A study of the atmosphere over the Arctic area near the North Pole shows extreme thinning of the ozone that protects Earth against harmful radiation. The study found ozone losses of more than sixty percent eighteen kilometers above the Arctic.

Scientists say this is one of the largest ozone losses in the Arctic at this level of the atmosphere. They say the losses were found after one of the coldest winters ever reported. Scientists from the American space agency NASA and the European Union released the findings.

Ozone is a form of oxygen. It is found in the air we breathe and in the upper atmosphere. Near Earth, ozone in the air is a danger to life. It is a pollutant. But between ten and fifty kilometers up in the atmosphere, ozone protects life on Earth.

Ozone forms in the atmosphere through the action of radiation from the sun. The ozone blocks harmful radiation from reaching Earth. Scientists say a decrease in ozone and an increase in the harmful radiation will cause many more cases of skin cancer. And it will harm crops, animals and fish.

Ozone problems first became known in Nineteen-Eighty-Five. British research scientists reported that ozone levels in the Antarctic atmosphere near the South Pole fell sharply each year in October and November. Nineteen-Eighty-Seven was the first year that a huge hole developed in the ozone layer above the Antarctic.

NASA officials say the latest study is a result of the largest campaign yet to measure ozone amounts and changes in the Arctic area. Most of the measurements were made in Sweden. Additional measurements were made from satellites and observation stations around the world. The information was collected between last November and March of this year.

NASA researcher Paul Newman says some of the measurements show ozone in the Arctic decreased about sixty percent between January and the middle of March. These measurements are similar to the ozone losses observed in this area a few years ago.

Other studies have shown that man-made chemicals were destroying ozone in the atmosphere. An international agreement halted production of the most harmful chemicals. The new findings support the idea that recovery of the ozone layer may be delayed.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

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