Archive | Ozone Depletion

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Ozone, Climate Change: Harbingers and Victims

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Jerry

For many decades canaries in coal mines were used for early warning of carbon monoxide, methane or carbon dioxide which would kill the canary before affecting the miner. It appears that fish may have replaced the canary in providing warning of ozone depletion and effects of these same deadly gasses on climate change.  This is of course, in addition to prescient scientists and climate activists who have provided similar early warnings that have been largely ignored.

A study entitled “Evidence of Melanoma in Wild Marine Fish Populations” in the August 1, 2012 issue of PLoS ONE, describes the first known cases of melanoma skin cancer in wild fish populations, in this case coral trout which inhabit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) off Australia.  One hundred and thirty six fish were sampled and photographed and twenty fish, or roughly 15%, showed evidence of skin cancer.  Numerous other affected fish were sighted by divers.  The study however was performed only on fish captured via fishing.

Elaborate tests were performed on the affected tissues attempting to identify likely causes including bacterial, fungal, and ciliates or protozoan agents.  The observed dark growth lesions on the fish were similar in appearance to those reported in laboratory induced melanomas (cancers) using ultraviolet (UV) radiation.  See the identified link below.  In the absence of other identified causes, knowledge that the area is subject to high UV radiation as a result of the Antarctic ozone hole, and that UV radiation penetrates the ocean to a depth of 60 meters (200 feet), the scientists concluded the likely cause of these cancers was environmental exposure to UV radiation as a result of ozone depletion.

Scientists are surprised at the waning interest in depletion of the ozone above the planet.  This is thought to be because the world believed it had dealt with the problem with the signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol where developed countries agreed to phase out use of chemicals that are damaging to the ozone.  Scientists moved on to study climate change and left ozone depletion as yesterday’s news.  Recent studies of ocean algae, coral, crustaceans and fish larvae and eggs however are showing a steep increase in the marine death rates from UVB radiation.

Moving to the Northern Hemisphere, fish are paying the price extracted by climate change, which accentuates weather highs and lows.  In the midst of the warmest 12 month period on record (see blog April 5, 2012 article “Record Warmest Year in U.S.”) and a nationwide drought with over half of the counties in America declared disaster areas, fish are dying by the thousands as rivers and lakes dry up and there are fatal increases in water temperatures.

Many scientists, who have become intimidated by the climate change deniers of the legacy energy industry and the political right, are reluctant to label this record drought a result of global climate change.  Instead, because of fierce criticism and pressure, they use the politically correct response which is “It is impossible to determine if any single phenomenon is a result of climate change.”   Only a few stalwarts and truthsayers have the courage to stand up to the intimidation.  They are our human harbingers.

A notable example of these brave scientists is James Hansen who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  In a recent NY Times Op-ed he warned that the Obama administration should oppose any effort of Canada to exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves.  He stated we should not cooperate in building a cross country oil pipeline giving Canada access to our Gulf Coast Refining.  He suggested instead that the U.S. and other countries should create incentives that rewarded countries like Canada for leaving their resources in the ground and choosing renewable energy sources instead.

In a long term outlook he stated, “Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.  If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control.  Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities.  Global temperatures would become intolerable.   Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction.  Civilization would be at risk.”

In a subsequent paper presented to the National Academy of Sciences entitled “Perception of climate change” he focused on an element of basic statistics looking at recent higher temperature summer outliers of more than three standard deviations.  He stated “This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area.  It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.”

We need but look around us and listen to our scientists to know that the negative developments we are seeing are real and do not bode well for our future.  We must react as human beings have always reacted by recognizing the trends and deciding to change our course and minimize future negative outcomes.

Use the following links to access additional information on these topics:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0041989

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/19170802

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1466-8238.2012.00784.x/abstract

http://www.startribune.com/nation/165066296.html?refer=y

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/us-drought-2012-disaster-areas_n_1731393.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/07/30/1205276109.abstract

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A New “Ozone Hole” at the North Pole

Posted on 21 October 2011 by Jerry

This is an update to the earlier story about the ozone depletion at the North Pole.  When we last looked (June 2, 2011) the ozone depletion had set a new record of 40%.  Unfortunately the colder weather at the higher altitudes lasted longer than expected making the chlorine chemicals that destroy ozone reach their most active level.  New data indicates the ozone loss reached 80% which makes the ozone loss over the North Pole equivalent to that already existing over the South Pole, in effect giving us two ozone holes to now worry about.

The good news may be that the extraordinary colder temperatures at the North Pole may return to warmer levels which will moderate a return of a fully fledged ozone hole in the North.  The temperatures at the North Pole did not set any record this year but the cold period lasted significantly longer and over a wider area.  The bad news is that unfortunately the winters that are cold have been getting colder which may once again bring us an ozone hole at the North Pole.  Again the ozone layer in the stratosphere blocks ultraviolet-B rays from the Sun that can cause skin cancer and other medical conditions.

Background: in Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 10: Protect Live Imperative – Ozone Hole documents the development and discovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic.  It also warns of continued use of ozone destroying chemicals, although not the worst kind, in the largest developing nations, India and China.  These countries were given an exception under the Montreal Protocol and its successors.

Use the following links for more information:

For an abstract of the original report in Nature go to http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10556.html

For BBC news reports go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15105747?print=true

 

October 6, 2011, San Francisco, Ozone Hole

 

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Ozone Depletion Sets Record at the North Pole

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

The original ozone hole occurs over the South Pole, Antarctica.  This is because temperatures in the stratosphere are colder there, at minus 80° Fahrenheit, for longer in the year than at the North Pole.  This year ozone depletion over the North Pole set a new record at 40% surpassing the old record of 30% due to a longer, very cold, Arctic winter stretching farther into March and April than normal.

Researchers note the greater variability of temperatures in the North Pole which cause larger fluctuations of ozone depletion from year to year.  Although ozone depletion was larger than normal it was not unexpected.  The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization acknowledged that even though this Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, it was colder than normal in the stratosphere.

Scientists remain optimistic that the world’s ozone layer outside of the polar regions will return to pre1980 levels around 2030-40 and that both poles will fully recover by 2045-60.  This is according to scientists at the WMO who continue to have faith in the continued enforcement of the Montreal Protocol that progressively banned the worst offending chemicals over a number of years.

Confusion about whether the ozone is recovering continues however as an April article titled “First Detection of Ozone Hole Recovery Claimed” appeared in Science magazine’s April 8, 2011 edition.  The article quoted researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia as saying their study showed that “virtually all” of the of the year-to-year changes in springtime Antarctic ozone can be accounted for with two kinds of atmospheric circulation.  “Subtracting their estimate of the natural changes in ozone from actual changes, the group finds ‘a clear upward trend since the late 1990’s’ in the hole’s ozone that represents a ‘systematic rebound’.   Over the past decade the rebound has amounted to about 15%, they estimate.” This report was controversial among atmospheric researchers who said the report’s data was insufficient and could produce different conclusions if uncertain parameters were varied in a new analysis.

June 2, 2011, San Francisco, Ozone Hole

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 10: Protect Life Imperative – Ozone Hole, on page 115, there is discussion of the exception made in the Montreal Protocol for developing countries that allows their continued use of ozone destructive chemicals and the rapid growth of use of air conditioners in China and India.  The concern is that this exception will limit or reverse progress gained in restoring the ozone of the planet.

Use the following links to access the WMO press release and Science magazine article: http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_912_en.html

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