In the ‘black summer’ of 2019/20, at least 70,000 square kilometers of forest and bushland in Australia caught fire. 30 people and billions of animals died from inhaling the fires and smoke, and clouds of soot moved across the Pacific Ocean to South America and other regions around the world. They made their way into the stratosphere, where they eventually depleted the ozone layer. That’s the conclusion of a study by Peter Bernath of Virginia’s Old Dominion University and his science team..
The task force evaluated data from the Canadian “Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment”: the satellite records a concentration of 44 compounds in the stratosphere, some of which are known to damage the ozone layer. Some particulate concentrations increased significantly after forest fires compared to previous years, including, for example, formaldehyde and chlorine-containing compounds chlorine nitrate, chlorine monoxide and hypochlorous acid. On the other hand, other compounds like nitrogen dioxide or hydrochloric acid are found to a lesser extent than before.
It was caused by smoke, which rose to the lower stratosphere and its components reacted with chlorine-containing chemicals, which came from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) still circulating there. The smoke transformed these compounds into ozone-destroying forms such as chlorine monoxide and hypochlorous acid. According to Bernath and Co., the increase in these substances and the changing composition led to a 13 percent decrease in ozone after the “black summer.” This affected the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere and therefore Australia as well. The ozone layer in the region has fully recovered as of December 2020.
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