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Australia bushfires: enough to destroy the ozone layer

Australia bushfires: enough to destroy the ozone layer

The hypothesis has been circulating since 2020: given the record height of this smoke – up to 31 kilometers above sea level – it was theoretically possible that the gases that make up it had caused chemical reactions there capable of damaging the ozone layer. The hypothesis has just been confirmed by three chemical researchers – two Canadian and one American – in article It was published by the magazine on March 17 to know.

They wrote that the ozone layer has temporarily shrunk by 13% above the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere – where Australia is located. Their data comes from the Canadian satellite Scisat, one of whose missions was –Atmospheric Chemistry ExperimentMeasuring the levels of 44 different molecules in our atmosphere.

Specifically, these fires “injected” acidic smoke particles into the stratosphere, “and disrupt the chlorine, hydrogen, and nitrogen chemistry that governs ozone,” he explains. In the press release From University of Waterloo chemist Peter Bernath, first author of the research.

At their peak, between December 29, 2019 and January 4, 2020, the Australian fires sent 300 to 900,000 tons of smoke there. The plume, which rose up to 31 kilometers, extended over 1,000 kilometers. For three months, these fires burned an area of ​​\u200b\u200bmore than 70,000 square kilometers, killing 30 people and millions of animals. They are also credited with more than 4,000 hospitalizations.

Ozone is the gas in the upper atmosphere that protects life on Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The smoke from fires does not usually reach the stratosphere, but the size of these fires puts it in a class of its own. question now To see if the Fires of this size It will be more frequent in the coming decades.

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