Q:

What is the benefit of the ozone layer?

A:

Quick Answer

The ozone layer absorbs most of the biologically damaging ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, allowing only a small amount to pass. Through UV absorption, it creates a source of heat that defines the temperature characteristics of Earth's stratosphere. Left unfiltered, certain frequencies of UV radiation would more easily penetrate the protective coverings of organisms, causing severe damage to DNA molecules.

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Full Answer

Ozone molecules consist of three oxygen atoms bonded together and make up only a trace amount of the total oxygen molecules in the air; there are approximately three ozone molecules for every 10 million air molecules. This scarcity stems from the fact that ozone molecules are highly reactive. They are present in another layer of the atmosphere closer to the surface called the troposphere, and their high reactivity causes these molecules to have a toxic effect on life-forms with which they come into contact.

The high reactivity has another consequence: the ozone layer is thinned by reactions with chlorofluorocarbons, molecules that were once widely used as aerosol propellants. As humans release these chemicals into the air, the molecules rise to the ozone layer and convert the oxygen in ozone into more stable forms, allowing more UV radiation to pass through the Earth's atmosphere.

Experts commonly classify UV radiation into two spectra: UVA and UVB. UVB radiation causes sunburns and certain types of cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, while UVA radiation causes melanoma skin cancer and premature aging.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How does the ozone layer work?

    A:

    According to How Stuff Works, the ozone layer works by ultraviolet light breaking apart oxygen molecules and then reforming them as ozone. Ozone converts the dangerous ultraviolet rays into harmless heat. With an adequate supply of ozone and oxygen, the ozone layer will absorb approximately 98 percent of incoming ultraviolet rays.

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  • Q:

    What damages the ozone layer?

    A:

    The atmospheric release of chlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons causes a depletion of the ozone layer. When these chemicals reach the stratosphere, they react with UV light, releasing chlorine atoms that break apart ozone molecules.

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  • Q:

    Where is the ozone layer located?

    A:

    The ozone layer is located in the stratosphere, a region of the atmosphere that is about 10 to 50 kilometers above the Earth. The stratosphere consists of approximately 90 percent ozone. Ozone has the chemical formula O3.

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  • Q:

    How can we protect the ozone layer from being destroyed?

    A:

    In order to halt the depletion of the ozone layer, countries around the world have banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting substances. These compounds produce chlorine and bromine atoms high in the atmosphere, and these atoms react with ozone, destroying it.

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