A new study warns that a surge in powerful storms, perhaps linked to a warming climate, could be causing a depletion of the planet’s protective ozone layer.
Writing in the journal Science, Harvard researchers explain that water vapor inserted into the normally dry stratosphere by strong thunderstorms is triggering chemical reactions with now-banned chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, essentially creating ozone-destroying conditions identical to those occurring over the Antarctic, high southern latitudes, and parts of the Arctic. That, in turn, could lead to an increase in UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, posing a higher risk of skin cancer for humans as well as potentially harmful conditions for some plants and crops.
Lead author James G. Anderson said more research is necessary, including direct measurements of the effects of water vapor on ozone chemistry. But he said that given recent research linking climate change to an increase in extreme weather events, these findings could portend increased ozone loss in years to come.
“It’s the union between ozone loss and climate change that is really at the heart of this,” Anderson told the New York Times. “Now, they’re intimately connected.”
Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.