European scientists confirmed that Arctic high atmosphere is reaching the lowest ever temperatures this winter, warning that destruction of the protective ozone layer is substantially increased under very cold conditions. First signs of ozone loss have already been detected. The ozone layer is located in the so called stratosphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere, at an altitude of about 8 km in the Poles, and its function is to protect the earth’s surface from harmful solar UV radiation. More than 170 countries have ratified the Montreal Protocol, an environmental treaty established in 1987 to protect the ozone layer. Should further cooling of the Arctic stratosphere occur, increasing ozone losses can be expected for the next couple of decades. A hole in the ozone layer can lead to intensified UV harmful radiation affecting inhabited Polar regions and Scandinavia, possibly down to central Europe. This could have consequences for human health (increased cases of skin cancer) as well as for biodiversity.
“The Arctic has experienced an extremely harsh winter. The first signs of ozone loss have now been observed, and large ozone losses are expected to occur if the cold conditions persist”, says European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potonik.
European scientists observe changes in the thickness of the ozone layer in the Arctic on a daily basis, as part of the European research initiative SCOUT-03, a very useful tool to predict future development of the ozone layer in global climate models, involving 59 institutions and over 200 scientists from 19 countries.
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