Q:

What is destroying the ozone layer?

A:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other complex chemicals make their way into the upper reaches of the stratosphere where they decay and release chlorine and bromine atoms that destroy ozone. The chemical reactions caused by these substances break apart the ozone atom, removing its protective capacity and increasing the amount of ultraviolet radiation that can pass through the Earth's atmosphere.

One of the reasons CFCs and other ozone-destroying substances are so dangerous is that they're extremely stable molecules that can last for years or decades. When these gases are released at ground level, it potentially takes many years for them to make their way through the atmosphere into the upper reaches of the ozone layer. There, the increased energy from the sun helps to break apart these complex molecules, creating free chlorine and bromine to react with the ozone molecules. A single molecule of chlorine can destroy as many as 100,000 ozone molecules during its lifespan.

In 1987 the Montreal Protocol banned the use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances, vastly reducing their output in the countries that signed the treaty. Unfortunately, the long-lived nature of these molecules means that a reduction in the upper atmosphere is only becoming apparent decades later, and it may take still more time for the ozone layer to recover.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why is the ozone layer important?

    A:

    The ozone layer is important because it filters harmful ultraviolet radiation as it travels from the sun to the surface of the Earth. These ultraviolet rays can harm both plant and animal life. After observation of a depletion of the ozone layer from the addition of chlorofluorocarbons and other man-made chemicals, the Montreal Protocol was enacted on Jan. 1, 1989 as an attempt to eradicate these chemicals from the atmosphere.

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  • Q:

    What atmospheric layer contains the most ozone?

    A:

    The ozone layer contains about 90 percent of Earth's ozone. It is part of Earth's stratosphere and lies between 6 and 30 miles above the planet's surface, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The highest concentration of ozone is found between 12 and 19 miles above the surface, notes Wikipedia.

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  • Q:

    What is the function of the ozone layer?

    A:

    The function of the ozone layer is to shield the Earth from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun and to keep the Earth warm. The ozone layer is composed of ozone, a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms bonded together.

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  • Q:

    How do CFCs affect the ozone layer?

    A:

    CFCs affect the ozone layer by destroying ozone molecules. CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, are normally stable molecules, but when UV rays strike them, they are broken down. The chlorine atom released from a CFC wreaks havoc on ozone molecules.

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