Earth's ozone hole, shown here (in blue) in 2006, could be negatively affected by some efforts to decrease climate change.
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Courtesy of NASA

Injecting Sulfate Particles into Stratosphere Could Have Drastic Impact on Earth's Ozone Layer
News story originally written on April 24, 2008

Some scientists are looking for methods that will help cool the Earth and cancel out global warming. But a new study says that one of these methods would have a huge impact on the Earth's protective ozone layer and would delay the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by decades and cause a lot of ozone loss over the Arctic. Simone Tilmes, the lead scientist on this study, says that this attempt to cool down the Earth might just create other problems that people will have to deal with. The ozone layer is critical for life on Earth because it blocks dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

Climate scientists have been looking for ways to cool the planet and reduce the most serious impacts of global warming because they are worried that humans aren't doing enough to prevent major changes in climate. One of the most-discussed ideas is to regularly inject large amounts of sun-blocking sulfate particles into the stratosphere, which is one of the layers of the atmosphere. The goal would be to cool the climate, the same way that sulfur particles from large volcanic eruptions have cool the Earth.

Since volcanic eruptions thin the ozone layer in the stratosphere for a short time, Simone Tilmes and a group of scientists looked into the impacts that this type of plan could have on ozone. The results of their study showed that, over the next few decades, artificial injections of sulfates could destroy between one-fourth and three-fourths of the ozone layer above the Arctic. This could affect a large part of the Northern Hemisphere because of the way air circulates in this area. The sulfates would also delay the expected recovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic by about 30 to 70 years, or until the end of the twentieth century.

The scientists concluded that there needs to be more research on what this can do to the Earth before we decide that injecting sulfates into the stratosphere is a good thing for our planet.

Last modified May 29, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

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