The ozone layer is the part of the Earth's atmosphere which contains relatively high concentrations of ozone gas, which is an inorganic molecule with the chemical formula O3. Ozone is a pale blue gas with a pungent (chlorine-like) smell. Though relatively high, the concentration in this layer is still small in comparison to other gases in the stratosphere.
The Ozone layer absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth from the sun. Ozone Layer in the atmosphere is thicker over the poles than over the equator.
How is Ozone created?
When the sun's rays split oxygen molecules into single atoms, Ozone is created in the atmosphere. These single atoms combine with nearby oxygen to form a three-oxygen molecule — Ozone.
Who discovered the Ozone Layer?
The Ozone Layer was discovered by the French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson in 1913.
Why is Ozone Layer important?
Ozone protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the Sun. Without the Ozone layer in the atmosphere, life on Earth would be very difficult. Plants cannot live and grow in heavy ultraviolet radiation, nor can the planktons that serve as food for most of the ocean life. With a weakening of the Ozone Layer shield, humans would be more susceptible to skin cancer, cataracts and impaired immune systems.
Is Ozone harmful?
Ozone can both protect and harm the Earth — it all depends on where it resides. For instance, if Ozone is present in the stratosphere of the atmosphere, it will act as a shield. However, if it is in the troposphere (about 10 km from the Earth's surface), Ozone is harmful. It is a pollutant that can cause damage to lung tissues and plants. Hence, an upset in the ozone balance can have serious consequences.
Disruption of Ozone Balance in the atmosphere
Since the 1970s scientists have observed human activities to be disrupting the ozone balance. Production of chlorine-containing chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), have added to depletion of the Ozone Layer.
What is 'Ozone Layer depletion'?
Chemicals containing chlorine and bromine atoms are released in the atmosphere through human activities. These chemicals combine with certain weather conditions to cause reactions in the Ozone Layer, leading to ozone molecules getting destroyed. Depletion of the Ozone Layer occurs globally, but the severe depletion of the Ozone Layer over the Antarctic is often referred to as the 'Ozone Hole'. Increased depletion has recently started occurring over the Arctic as well.
When is World Ozone Day?
International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is observed on September 16 every year.
Montreal Protocol on Ozone Layer depletion
Montreal Protocol is a multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). It was adopted on September 15, 1987. The Parties to the Montreal Protocol reached agreement at their 28th Meeting of the Parties on 15 October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Countries agreed to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances, and approved a timeline for their gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s.
Ozone-oxygen cycle in the ozone layer.
The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. It contains a high concentration of ozone (O3) in relation to other parts of the atmosphere, although still small in relation to other gases in the stratosphere. The ozone layer contains less than 10 parts per million of ozone, while the average ozone concentration in Earth's atmosphere as a whole is about 0.3 parts per million. The ozone layer is mainly found in the lower portion of the stratosphere, from approximately 15 to 35 kilometers (9 to 22 mi) above Earth, although its thickness varies seasonally and geographically.
The ozone layer was discovered in 1913 by the French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson. Measurements of the sun showed that the radiation sent out from its surface and reaching the ground on Earth is usually consistent with the spectrum of a black body with a temperature in the range of 5,500–6,000 K (5,230–5,730 °C), except that there was no radiation below a wavelength of about 310 nm at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. It was deduced that the missing radiation was being absorbed by something in the atmosphere. Eventually the spectrum of the missing radiation was matched to only one known chemical, ozone. Its properties were explored in detail by the British meteorologist G. M. B. Dobson, who developed a simple spectrophotometer (the Dobsonmeter) that could be used to measure stratospheric ozone from the ground. Between 1928 and 1958, Dobson established a worldwide network of ozone monitoring stations, which continue to operate to this day. The "Dobson unit", a convenient measure of the amount of ozone overhead, is named in his honor.
The ozone layer absorbs 97 to 99 percent of the Sun's medium-frequency ultraviolet light (from about 200 nm to 315 nm wavelength), which otherwise would potentially damage exposed life forms near the surface.
In 1976, atmospheric research revealed that the ozone layer was being depleted by chemicals released by industry, mainly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Concerns that increased UV radiation due to ozone depletion threatened life on Earth, including increased skin cancer in humans and other ecological problems, led to bans on the chemicals, and the latest evidence is that ozone depletion has slowed or stopped. The United Nations General Assembly has designated September 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.