New Delhi: The smoke from recent wildfires is threatening to slow and even reverse the recovery of Earth’s ozone layer, according to a study. Ozone layer is the protective cover shielding the Earth from the Sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US noted that a wildfire can pump smoke up into the stratosphere, where the particles drift for over a year. While suspended there, these particles can trigger chemical reactions that erode the ozone layer.
The study, published in the journal Nature, focused on the smoke from the “Black Summer” megafire in eastern Australia, which burned from December 2019 into January 2020.
The fires — the country’s most devastating on record — scorched tens of millions of acres and pumped more than one million tonnes of smoke into the atmosphere.
The researchers identified a new chemical reaction by which smoke particles from the Australian wildfires made ozone depletion worse.
By triggering this reaction, the fires likely contributed to a 3-5 per cent depletion of total ozone at mid-latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, in regions overlying Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa and South America.
The researchers’ model also indicates the fires had an effect in the polar regions, eating away at the edges of the ozone hole over Antarctica.
By late 2020, smoke particles from the Australian wildfires widened the Antarctic ozone hole by 2.5 million square kilometers — 10 per cent of its area compared to the previous year, the researchers said.
It is unclear what long-term effect wildfires will have on ozone recovery, they said.
The United Nations recently reported that the ozone hole, and ozone depletion around the world, is on a recovery track, thanks to a sustained international effort to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.
However, the latest study suggests that as long as these chemicals persist in the atmosphere, large fires could spark a reaction that temporarily depletes ozone.
The Australian fires of 2020 were really a wake-up call for the science community, said Susan Solomon, a professor at MIT. The effect of wildfires was not previously accounted for in [projections of] ozone recovery. And I think that effect may depend on whether fires become more frequent and intense as the planet warms, Ms. Solomon added.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.