| “Whatever Happened to the Ozone Hole?”, Distillations Podcast Episode 230, April 17, 2018, |
Ozone depletion describes two related events observed since the late 1970s: a steady lowering of about four percent in the total amount of
The main cause of ozone depletion and the ozone hole is manufactured chemicals, especially manufactured
Ozone depletion and the ozone hole have generated worldwide concern over increased cancer risks and other negative effects. The ozone layer prevents most harmful
The ban came into effect in 1989. Ozone levels stabilized by the mid-1990s and began to recover in the 2000s. Recovery is projected to continue over the next century, and the ozone hole is expected to reach pre-1980 levels by around 2075. The Montreal Protocol is considered the most successful international environmental agreement to date.
Three forms (or
2 or diatomic oxygen), and ozone gas (O
3 or triatomic oxygen). Ozone is formed in the stratosphere when oxygen molecules photodissociate after intaking ultraviolet photons. This converts a single O
2 into two atomic oxygen
2 molecules to create two O
3 molecules. These ozone molecules absorb ultraviolet (UV) light, following which ozone splits into a molecule of O
2 and an oxygen atom. The oxygen atom then joins up with an oxygen molecule to regenerate ozone. This is a continuing process that terminates when an oxygen atom recombines with an ozone molecule to make two O
O + O
3 → 2 O
The total amount of ozone in the stratosphere is determined by a balance between photochemical production and recombination.
Ozone can be destroyed by a number of
Ozone is a highly reactive molecule that easily reduces to the more stable oxygen form with the assistance of a catalyst. Cl and Br atoms destroy ozone molecules through a variety of
3), taking an oxygen atom to form chlorine monoxide (ClO) and leaving an oxygen molecule (O
2). The ClO can react with a second molecule of ozone, releasing the chlorine atom and yielding two molecules of oxygen. The chemical shorthand for these gas-phase reactions is:
The overall effect is a decrease in the amount of ozone, though the rate of these processes can be decreased by the effects of
A single chlorine atom would continuously destroy ozone (thus a catalyst) for up to two years (the time scale for transport back down to the troposphere) were it not for reactions that remove them from this cycle by forming reservoir species such as
2). Bromine is even more efficient than chlorine at destroying ozone on a per atom basis, but there is much less bromine in the atmosphere at present. Both chlorine and bromine contribute significantly to overall ozone depletion. Laboratory studies have also shown that fluorine and iodine atoms participate in analogous catalytic cycles. However, fluorine atoms react rapidly with water and methane to form strongly bound
A single chlorine atom is able to react with an average of 100,000 ozone molecules before it is removed from the catalytic cycle. This fact plus the amount of chlorine released into the atmosphere yearly by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) demonstrates the danger of CFCs and HCFCs to the environment.