Holy Ozone Layer, Batman!

Aug. 1, 2010
It's been some time since we've heard cries for help regarding the degradation of the Earth's ozone layer and subsequent doom of life as we know it. But

It's been some time since we've heard cries for help regarding the degradation of the Earth's ozone layer and subsequent doom of life as we know it. But apparently, the keening has begun again.

In the HVACR industry, there probably isn't a single engineer, manufacturer, distributor, or contractor who doesn't know something of the ozone hole that hovers precariously over Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, and parts of South America and Africa.

After all, during the mid 1980s, after British scientists sounded the alarm, the world rushed to condemn the chemicals used to refrigerate our foods and medicines, keep us comfortable and healthy, and allow us to inhabit most of the uninhabitable places across our beloved planet.

From that alarm arose the Montreal Protocol, which ushered in a new, green age in 1989. Since then rumors have it that because of mankind's brilliant efforts at reducing the consumption and subsequent release of these chemicals — chlorofluorocarbons being chief among them — that our planet is getting healthier, the hole is shrinking.

Great news, right?

Well, maybe. You see, there's a new study in town. It was conducted by scientists from New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. Their findings show that the recovery, in concert with climate change, may do harm as well as good.

You heard that right. The study, detailed in the May edition of Geophysical Research Letters and highlighted in an article posted on Yahoo! News (tinyurl.com/34d76ud), revealed that variations in atmospheric circulation attributed to climate change will cause a 43-percent increase in gas exchange between the stratosphere (an upper layer of the atmosphere that contains the ozone layer) and the troposphere (the is lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere that contains the air we breath). The ozone layer resides just above the troposphere. As ozone is replenished in the stratosphere, it will have more opportunities to seep into the air we breathe.

This is not a good thing, because ozone smells bad and can damage our respiratory systems (not to mention harm the environment). Will this lead to even more legislation that could impact our industry?


According to the Yahoo! article, if carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase as expected from unabated emissions, the ozone layer will cool off, blurring the temperature boundary that separates it from the troposphere. Within the next century, more ozone than ever before will surge into our air.

This idea is based on a computer modeling program designed by those New Zealand scientists. The Yahoo! article says the study's author, Guang Zeng, hopes “that future studies of the impacts of climate change will account for the atmospheric composition of both the stratosphere and troposphere, as well as the movement of ozone between the two, to paint a better, more accurate picture of the Earth's environmental future.”

These “findings” and subsequent statements are the kind of things legislators drool over.

All I can say is,”Holy cow, can we do nothing right?” In a mere 21 years, we've gone from nearly destroying the earth by stripping the protective layer and threathening all living things with massive overdoses of ultraviolet radiation, to sort of fixing that, but in the process opened the door to annihilation through asphyxiation because the ozone is now falling from the sky.

Where is Chicken Little when you need him, Batman?

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