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The Fascinating History of the Ozone Layer: From Discovery to Global Cooperation

As a child, we have learned about the Ozone layer and its importance. We have learned about the hole in the ozone layer and how it was caused by CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) which had something to do with refrigerators and air sprays. We also learned about how important it is. In this article, we will discuss the ozone layer’s history and when it was discovered.
So basically, the ozone layer is a thin layer of a gas called “ozone” on the earth’s upper atmosphere. It covered the earth completely and was discovered to be an essential part of the Earth’s atmosphere and required for survival. It protects the planet from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. The history of the ozone layer is very fascinating. So who is Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson, and what is their relation to the Ozone Layer?

Why is the Ozone layer so important?

Without the ozone layer, life on Earth would not exist as we know it. Recent research has shown
with a high degree of correlation that the depletion of the ozone layer has an impact on the
occurrence and severity of heat waves.

  • When the ozone layer is depleted, the amount of UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s
  • surface increases.
  • This will lead to an increase in temperature and cause severe heat waves.
  • Heat waves are prolonged periods of abnormally hot weather, often accompanied by high humidity, thus building up more heat.
  • They are extremely dangerous, especially for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
  • They can also adversely affect agriculture and wildlife.
  • The dust bowls that occur in severity over the Americas as described so well in the story
  • Out of the Dust” would start occurring worldwide in high degrees of intensity.

The discovery of Ozone

For the past 100 years or so, scientists worldwide have tried to understand the layer’s importance and how human activities have affected it. The ozone layer was discovered in the early 20th century as an incidental finding when a few scientists were studying the Earth’s atmospheric composition and were trying to map it.
In 1913, French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson were the ones who discovered that there was a gas called ozone that formed a layer around the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Studies popped up worldwide about the Ozone soon after their research paper came out. In the early 1920s, a famous British meteorologist G.M.B. Dobson developed a method for measuring ozone concentration in the atmosphere. This unit is called the Dobson unit.
In the 1970s, scientists saw a marked decrease in atmospheric ozone concentration in the atmosphere, which set off a panic worldwide.

Scientists isolated the cause and discovered that chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were the primary cause of ozone layer depletion.
So basically, these CFCs were discovered in 1928 and are commonly used in refrigerants, aerosol sprays, and foam insulation, among other products. When released into the atmosphere, these chemicals would break down naturally and release chlorine atoms. These chlorine atoms would react with ozone molecules freely, breaking them into oxygen molecules. So, in essence, Ozone became oxygen.

The Montreal Protocol

Research shows that the depletion of the ozone layer contributes to the occurrence and severity of heat waves. NASA found that the ozone layer depletion was responsible for global warming and why the Arctic region ice had been reducing since the 1970s. Reduction in ozone levels also was the primary cause for increased heat waves in Australia.
To make matters much worse, in 1985, researchers discovered a massive hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

For the first time, Ozone became a big story across the world. This discovery sparked global panic about the depletion of the ozone layer and its potential impacts on the Earth’s ecosystem. In response, the international community came together to address the issue, leading to the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987.
The Montreal Protocol was an international agreement to phase out the production and use of ozone-depleting substances, including CFCs. The treaty has been widely regarded as one of the most successful environmental agreements in history, with almost every country ratifying it.

Since the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, there has been a gradual recovery of the ozone layer. While the hole over Antarctica still exists, it has been shrinking in size, and scientists predict that it will continue to do so in the coming decades.

Current age and conclusion

Interestingly in the last 5 years or so, it was discovered that the Ozone layer has started decreasing again. The cause has been identified as the presence of five more CFCs that are not yet banned by the Montreal Protocol. If emissions of these five CFCs continue to increase over time, their impact will affect the health of the Ozone layer. The source locations of these five CFCs are unknown since it is not easy to find out.
In conclusion, the history of the ozone layer is one of discovery, concern, and action. The discovery of the ozone layer and its importance to the Earth’s ecosystem led to the recognition of its depletion and the subsequent international effort to address the issue. While the depletion of the ozone layer is still a concern, the Montreal Protocol has been a successful example of global environmental cooperation, leading to the gradual recovery of the ozone layer.