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> Arctic ozone may drop to new low, Severe thinning over northern Europe!

Freedom Fighter
Group: Members
Posts: 567
Member No.: 264

Posted: Feb 1 2005, 12:53 AM
Quote Post
The coming weeks could bring the most severe thinning of the ozone layer over northern Europe since records began. The conditions are being driven by unusual weather in the high atmosphere above the Arctic, says the European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit.
The stratosphere, where the ozone layer lies, has seen its coldest winter for 50 years; there have also been an unusually large number of clouds.
These factors hasten the rate at which man-made chemicals destroy ozone.

"The meteorological conditions we are now witnessing resemble and even surpass the conditions of the 1999-2000 winter, when the worst ozone loss to date was observed," said Dr Neil Harris, from the Cambridge University-based unit.

Broken balance
Ozone is a molecule that is composed of three oxygen atoms. It is responsible for filtering out harmful ultra-violet radiation (less than 290 nanometres) from the Sun.
The molecule is constantly being made and destroyed in the stratosphere, which exists from about 10km to 40km above the Earth.
In an unpolluted atmosphere, this cycle of production and decomposition is in equilibrium.

But a number of human-produced chemicals, such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used as refrigerants, in aerosol sprays, as solvents and in foam-blowing agents, have risen into the stratosphere where they are broken down by the Sun's rays.
Chlorine atoms released from these chemicals then act as catalysts to decompose ozone.

Long return
At the moment, the area where the ozone layer is particularly thin is constrained by winds, which to some extent isolate the Arctic from the rest of the global climate system.
Scientists say this natural barrier will break down in the coming weeks, and the low ozone area will spread southwards over northern Europe, including the UK.

This will mean more of the Sun's ultra-violet rays reaching ground level, potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer.
The incidence of malignant melanoma, the worst kind of skin cancer, is rising; but to what extent that has been caused by decades of ozone depletion is far from clear.  "We will watch the development closely from day to day, and will inform the public and our authorities if the situation becomes worrying," said Dr Harris

The use of ozone-depleting chemicals is now restricted by an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol; but it may be half a century before levels of these chemicals have fallen sufficiently in the atmosphere to allow the northern ozone layer to be fully repaired.

I guess this will be a hot topic at this conference:

Scientists debate climate dangers
Two hundred scientists from around the world are meeting for a UK conference on the highly-charged subject of climate change.  Participants at Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, at the Met Office, Exeter, will try to agree on the definitions of danger levels.
This, they hope, will lead to a better understanding of methods the world can employ to avoid catastrophic warming.

Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his support for the meeting last year.

'Political dimensions'
The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme 170 people from different countries would be attending.
"What we're hoping they'll do is look at what they think the consequences of different levels of climate change would be - particularly in terms of what it means in different regions and sectors... and particularly what they think our options are in terms of how we tackle it."
The conference, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), will try to answer three questions:
- for different levels of climate change what are the key impacts, for different regions and sectors, and for the world as a whole?
- what would such levels imply in terms of greenhouse gas stabilisation concentrations and emission pathways required to achieve such levels?
- what technological options are there for achieving stabilisation of greenhouse gases at different concentrations in the atmosphere, taking into account costs and uncertainties?

The secretary of the steering committee which has organised the conference is Dr Geoff Jenkins, a veteran of 30 years' work at the Met Office.

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Posted: Feb 1 2005, 07:51 PM
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Polar Bears 'Already Doomed' By Pollution
By Charles Clover
The Telegraph - UK

The polar bear, the ptarmigan and Inuit culture are probably already doomed by the amount of pollution in the atmosphere, a leading scientist said yesterday.
Prof Stephen Schneider, a climatologist from Stanford University, who first made his name in the 1970s by predicting a new ice age, was referring to the latest predictions by the Nasa space agency that the world faces an extra 0.6 degrees Celsius of warming as a result of fossil fuel emissions already in the atmosphere.
This is in addition to the 0.7C rise over the past century and the result of Earth's slow response to warming caused by greenhouse gases trapping heat that might otherwise radiate out into space.
Prof Schneider said that birds were migrating earlier and flowers blooming earlier.
"This is not theoretical," he told the Exeter conference. "Nature is responding to a 0.7C warming. It seems completely obvious that there is a threat to the viability of many species on the Earth. They have to move, as they did before. But then they did not have factories, freeways and urban settlements to cross."
He said there was "danger in the pipeline", not all of which had yet been seen. That was because of the inertia in the Earth's climate, as we had to wait for the ocean temperature to catch up with the amount of heat already being trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases.
Prof Schneider said the next stage of warming was likely to affect small islands, polar bears, mountain top ecosystems and unique and valuable cultures such as the Inuit.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, agreed that most of the climate change expected over the next few decades was inevitable.
She told the conference: "We have to act now to limit the scale of the warming in the future and avoid even worse effects."
Dennis Tirpak, the conference chairman and a former member of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, said that rising demand for energy was driving global warming.
This was projected to double over the next 25 years, with fossil fuels providing most of the need.
"Advanced, more efficient technologies and renewables will make a difference in the next 15 years," he said. But the present power infrastructure would continue to have its effect for decades and we were likely to build the equivalent of 4,300 coal-fired or 1,600 large nuclear reactors.
"There will be no turning back," he said.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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