Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Ozone Layer from Past to Present

International Ozone Day

There were times when Earth was not like it is today. There were times when our Earth was full of trees. There were sounds of birds whispering and there were grasses all around which could be felt under the feet. There were sounds of natural flowing rivers across the landscape. The earth was whole in its uniqueness of biodiversity until the intervention of humans converted the whole into a hole.

First Image of the Earth

This is the first picture of planet Earth from space which came to us on the Christmas Eve 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. So clear and beautiful it was, till we filled that thin atmosphere with gases and pollution and still the action is in progress. We are still filling that comfortable gaseous boundary with the uncomfortable man-made harmful gases which is not only harmful to human health but our mother Earth is also getting affected.

Here, I am remembering a famous quote given by Mark Twain that “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” The problem here is that we think that Earth is so big that whatever we do is not going to affect anyone or the big Earth would consume it. But the truth is that it will complete a cycle and come back to affect us only. Maybe it was true at some point in time that our deeds to the environment never affected us but today the scenario has changed drastically. The most vulnerable are our atmosphere which is so thin that we are capable of changing the natural composition.

As soon as the first image of the Earth came, within 18 months, there started a revolution to save the atmosphere. It was soon realized that there is something happening in the atmosphere above Antarctica. Soon a Multinational Expedition was launched by the British team in 1977 to find out the actual cause. It was found that there exists a layer of three-atom isotope of Oxygen (O3) which is a faintly blue irritating gas continuously protecting our Earth from the harmful ultraviolet rays coming from the surface of the sun. It was also found in the expedition that the layer of O3, also called as the Ozone layer, is developing a hole over the Antarctica and making a way for the UV ray to come in contact with the surface of the earth. It became very important to understand the whole mechanism involved in the formation of the hole in the Ozone layer so that its destruction and contribution in the global warming could become measurable. Ozone holes are the formation of Ozone fewer patches in the blanket of a gaseous composition.

Based on the findings by British Antarctic Survey Team and Multinational Expedition Team in 1985 and 87, respectively, the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer was signed by 55 countries in 1987. This became the very first step towards the control of Ozone layer depletion. The steps towards protecting the environment and primarily Ozone layer included the prevention of harmful CFCs gases from exceeding its limits. This became possible due to the active participation of most of the then developed nation and most importantly through the participation of UNEP.

Previously it was believed that the depletion of the Ozone layer is due to the seasonal phenomenon but the report of NASA Ozone Trend Panel, 1988 changed the belief. The team of 100 scientists from 10 countries proved that Ozone layer depletion resulting into Ozone hole is not a seasonal cause but it is a result of a global affair.

The most fundamental function of the Ozone layer is to protect the troposphere from the harmful UV rays of the Sun. If there is a hole allowing the UV rays from the Sun to reach the surface of the Earth then it will result in the heating up of the surface of the Earth as well as the lower troposphere. This unusual warming of the atmosphere could lead to various problems like:

1. Global Warming
2. Coral Bleaching
3. Health problems in human
4. Ecological imbalances etc.

If these consequences of the Ozone layer depletion remain unchecked then most of the coasts, islands, icebergs and different fragile species would get vanish forever from the face of the earth. Therefore, it is our fundamental duty to check the pollution levels generating from our daily routine. It is equally important to check the usage of Air conditioners and fridges as they are the major contributor of CFCs. It is on our shoulders to protect our mother Earth so that it can nourish our future generations as well.

We are the last best hope of the Planet Earth. Let’s take steps together to protect it or else we and all the living things that we cherish are history!

 Written By: Shoryabh Srivastava