NEW Large Pacific Ozone Hole Lets Pollutants Rise High Up reports Andrea Thompson at Climate Central. Researchers have found another large ozone hole, this time over the west tropical Pacific. No atmospheric ozone (O3) there also means no companion gaseous hydroxyl radicals (OH).
Maps showing the ozone hole, the associated OH hole, and the updraft area that now is pushing pollutants high up into the stratosphere. Credit: Markus Rex, Alfred Wegener Institute via Climate Central.
These gas radicals “scrub” manmade pollutants, such as ozone-destroying compounds, out of the air by binding to them. This beneficial “OH shield” exists over most of the planet with the ozone shield, which keeps harmful UV radiation from hitting Earth’s surface.
In tropical West Pacific thunderstorms, air masses and their pollutants are quickly hurled up. On the way, hydroxyl (OH) molecules normally “scrub” pollutants from the air before it reaches the stratosphere, where they can spread around the globe and last far longer than down below. But now, a new ozone hole is allowing those pollutants to spread high up. Credit: Markus Rex, Alfred Wegener Institute, via Climate Central.
The hole sits over an updraft area, so pollutants are pushed with the warm air above our atmospheric envelope of weather and breathable air into the stratosphere, where they can exist for years and get distributed around the planet.
What does this new break in the ozone shield mean, and what is the effect of having these pollutants, including more greenhouse gases, spreading out way above our planet? Stay tuned, folks – we just don’t know yet…
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