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Ozone recovery slowed by global warming

 Posted by on February 6, 2009
Feb 062009

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

Professor Waugh

Residents of the tropics and southern latitudes might want to invest in sun block, according to a study being released in Geophysical Research Letters. It seems that warming trends won’t only make the sun feel hotter, but may keep its UV radiation dangerous as well.

The study, whose lead author is Johns Hopkins University’s Darryn W. Waugh, focuses on warming trends as they effect levels of ozone in the stratosphere.

Ozone is the gas that blocks much of the sun’s UV rays, protecting humans from high risks of skin cancer. Man-made substances like chlorofluorocarbons deplete ozone in the atmosphere, but since the ’80s much of the world has fought this problem with regulations limiting the production of such materials.

According to Professor Waugh, though, whose study was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, those efforts may not restore the ozone layer any time soon. Climate change, he says, can produce variations in air circulation that would slow or prevent the reformation of ozone in the lower stratosphere.

“Global warming causes changes in the speed that the air is transported into and through the lower stratosphere [in tropical and southern mid-latitudes],” he said in a statement. “You’re moving the air through it quicker, so less ozone gets formed.”

The news is not completely bad, because the thermal effects Waugh’s team found may produce opposite effects in polar regions and northern latitudes, allowing ozone recovery to happen earlier than current forecasts. Not that there’s a lot of exposed skin to worry about at the North Pole.

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