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Ozone Layer Improving Faster Than Expected 325

SpaceAdmiral writes "Since the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which limited ozone-destroying gasses like CFCs, the Earth's ozone layer has been recovering. However, new studies show that the ozone in the lower stratosphere is actually recovering faster than the Montreal Protocol alone can explain." From the article: "It's a complicated question. CFCs are not the only things that can influence the ozone layer; sunspots, volcanoes and weather also play a role. Ultraviolet rays from sunspots boost the ozone layer, while sulfurous gases emitted by some volcanoes can weaken it. Cold air in the stratosphere can either weaken or boost the ozone layer, depending on altitude and latitude. These processes and others are laid out in a review just published in the May 4th issue of Nature: 'The search for signs of recovery of the ozone layer' by Elizabeth Westhead and Signe Andersen."
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Ozone Layer Improving Faster Than Expected

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  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:30AM (#15415001)
    We're playing with chemicals, eating toxic foods, messing with nature's balance, wasting or restoring ozone layer beyond our comprehension, using electronics that cause tumors and other illnesses... and in this mess somewhere, the bare truth shines:

    we know shit
    • Exactly.
      But why do these guys try to "heal" the ozone layer? Didn't they see "The Matrix" or Highlander III. If these guys knew shit they would destroy the ozon layer and build a black cloud around the world.

      Then surrounded by thick smoke , gases and eating toxic food we will find ourselves in a medium in wich we would really evolve. Maby even in some MutantX kind of way!?

      Well, all those people who have nothing better to do than mindlessly walk around in the open all day as if the sun was there to shine on
      • Then surrounded by thick smoke , gases and eating toxic food we will find ourselves in a medium in wich we would really evolve.

        I'm sorry, I must have got something wrong...
        How exactly does this differ from our current situation?

        Smog excluded, this is what every room with a smoker present looks like to me.

    • by Atario ( 673917 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:47AM (#15415138) Homepage
      We're playing with chemicals
      I play with chemicals all day: molecular oxygen and nitrogen [wisc.edu], carbon dioxide [ghgonline.org], various hydrocarbon compounds [usda.gov], proteins [exploratorium.edu], and of course, the deadly dihydrogen monoxide [snopes.com].
      eating toxic foods
      You eat toxic foods? How are you still alive? What are all the toxins anyway? Can you give me a list? No? Huh...
      • While you happily play with words like parent poster were a paranoid, anybody else can read interesting stuff like:

        However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and th
        • That's exactly the point (in disguise). The GP is clearly either making fun of us, or he's one of the paranoid tinfoil hat prone enviromentalists. Anything is toxic in the wrong amounts! E.g. a glass of wine is fine and yet you can die of alcohol poisoning. Hence the adage "everything in moderation". Hence even a small number of "the paranoid tinfoil hat prone enviromentalists" are good for the society.
      • You eat toxic foods? How are you still alive? What are all the toxins anyway? Can you give me a list? No? Huh...

        Why would you say "No" before I get a chance to answer. I've in fact researched this in great detail, and I could give you a list of food that have adverse affect on health you eat every day: fuzzy drinks an chewing gums with aspartame, snacks with sodium glutamate, preservatives, margarine (aka plastic butter) and so on and so on.
    • by Bacon Bits ( 926911 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:36AM (#15415203)
      Actually, it has been mainly thoguh the No Atmospheric Layer Left Behind program that the Ozone Layer has improved as rapidly as it has.
    • Since we have reduced CFC's in the past 20 years one would assume it would do something.

      You know... We don't use CFC in our hair spray, styrofoam, air conditioners, and so on anymore.

      Considering we've cut back so much... Wouldn't you think that would explain the ozone recovering?

      That are we have more pirates these days.
  • ok - so if I read this right it's saying that things aren't going as predicted. the implied message seems to be something like "science got it wrong" - but the whole point of science is to improve knowledge. That point, the essential element of science, is that we do NOT know it all and seek to improve.

    Look - the chance of everything changing EXACTLY as predicted (by anyone) is almost nil. so headlines will always read:

    XXXX is going BETTER/WORSE than predicted.

    Really - nothing to see here - please keep

    • by xiphoris ( 839465 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:10AM (#15415081) Homepage
      ok - so if I read this right it's saying that things aren't going as predicted. the implied message seems to be something like "science got it wrong" - but the whole point of science is to improve knowledge

      Part of the problem with this system is that things like the Montreal Protocol are not science. It aims to solve a problem that might exist with remedies that might fix it. Note the usage of the world "explains" instead of "predicts". Most scientific theories are like economics: they can 'explain' plenty, but they can't really predict anything. Ultimately, all this talk about the weather is not science because we can't do experiments. There is simply no way to do scientific experiments with the global climate, and so theories about it don't quite make it all the way.

      Using such theories to make worldwide policy is not exactly scientific when there is no actual evidence they have the verified power of prediction.
      • Most scientific theories are like economics: they can 'explain' plenty, but they can't really predict anything.

        Sorry, I meant to say scientific theories about the weather, not all theories. There's a reason weathermen have such a bad track record =) Quantum mechanics is quite good, however, in predicting things successfully ;]
      • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:30AM (#15415109) Homepage
        I don't accept this simplistic formula, that science is only science if it involves experimentation. There are plenty of knowledge-creating practices that I would describe as "scientific" that do no use laboratory or strictly experimental methods: meteorology and climateology are two of them, as are different types of evolutionary and behavioral sciences (some animal behavior study is lab-based, but the more important work is field work.) Observing patterns and creating models based on observed patterns, and making predictions based on those models, is, as far as I'm concern, a scientific posture.

        And the "verification" is the same as it would be for a laboratory model: the model needs to explain the extant data, whether laboratory-produced or gathered from the field. Using models to make policy based on field-gathered data is substantially more "scientific" than using wishful thinking based on economic self-interest.
        • "Observing patterns and creating models based on observed patterns, and making predictions based on those models, is, as far as I'm concern, a scientific posture."

          Not really relevant what you (or I) think is a "scientific posture". This appears to be a conflation on your part of two definitions of the word science.


          1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
          2. systema
          • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Saturday May 27, 2006 @11:28AM (#15415972) Homepage Journal
            Weather can fall into 4, 5 or 6, not 1 (because we don't know the generalized laws), 2 (because we can't experiment on a sufficient scale) or 7 (because it ain't precise). (emphasis mine)

            Did you read your own post?

            2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. (emphasis mine)

            Observation is just as valid a method of getting information as is experimentation; it just takes longer and you have to be more careful to gather sufficient data. Climatology and meteorology, like geology/geophysics/geochemistry, astronomy/astrophysics, and large sections of biology including all of paleontology and, at the opposite end of the temporal scale, most of epidemiology, rely largely on observation, testing specific hypotheses with experimentation when possible (which, these days, is more often than you might think.) Are you seriously denying that all of these are sciences?
      • Actually, we can do experiments, but we're restricted to a sample size of 1.

      • by kirk__243 ( 967535 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:42AM (#15415625)
        If it's not science, what is it? Superstition?

        This is something that is studied by scientists in a scientific (ie critical and fact based) manner, and then considered and debated by other scientists in the field of study. And you think it's not science?

        You can't experiment on the planet as a whole, but

        - measure the levels of ozone and see a reduction
        - measure the levels of CFC output and see an increase
        - determine through experiments (or simple chemical knowledge) that CFCs reaction with ozone

        and deduce that the increased levels of CFC are decreasing levels of ozone. That's science, through and through.

        • Yes, but how much is the CFC's responsable for? Is the variation part of a cycle? We know that the earth operates in cycles that can be measured in centuries and eons. Ozone levels also depend on on how active the sun is.

          In other words, it's not so simple.
      • There was clear evidence that freon and such were eroding the ozone layer. Stopping use was certainly a 'might help', but given the very real consequences of ozone depletion(skin cancer rates *were* increasing and ozone layer depletion was the *best* explanation), 'might help' is a pretty good reason to act.

        If you insist, we can say that it isn't science, but are you proposing that doing nothing would have been better than the Montreal protocol? Or are you just pissing in a can because science enjoys a slig
      • Gee, and here I thought Kepler, with his observations of the movements of the planets, and Einstein, with his "thought experiments" that involved no actual lab work, were doing science. I sure am glad you're here to set us igorant people straight.
      • Uhhh, thats exactly what science is.

        Take biomedicine. A scientist looks at symptoms and deduce's what is probably going on (at either a cellular, DNA or molecular level), and then develops a drug which will probably treat it.

        There is no complete definate, BECAUSE IT'S SCIENCE!

        However, the science behind the Montreal Treaty (as with the Kyoto Treaty) is far more indepth and independantly verifiyed than any drug in history (except maybe asprin and alcohol)!

    • Oops mis-clicked my mod on you as Redundant when I wanted Insightful...hopefully this post clears the mod and I get modded down for being dumb.
    • by malsdavis ( 542216 ) * on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:57AM (#15415156)
      I think its all about 'margin of error'. Predictions may have a 1%, 5% or even 15% margin of error. The complex nature of ozone layer recovery (like all climate predictions) means the error margin is bigger than say predicting radioactive decay (which has a very small but still definate error margin). What pisses me off is when idiots (normally with vested interests) take that 10% possible margin of error and try to pretend it means that the theory could have a 100% margin of error. As a very small group of certain 'so called scientists' are still trying to do with global warming.
    • With most things, there is a price to being right or wrong.

      I think that many people feel upset or offended that science naturally dissociates itself from such consequences.

      • by daveb ( 4522 ) <davebremer@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @03:31PM (#15416932) Homepage
        I think that many people feel upset or offended that science naturally dissociates itself from such consequences.

        Yeah - true - there are spoilt children everywhere. I often hear them shouting "it's not fair ... but you PROMISED" when things don't go as planned & expected. and in discussions like this, the "children" are over 20 who should know better

        all science can do is make predictions based on current knowledge, known facts, and best hypothesis. If "many people" can't accept that ... well what can you do?

    • Yup. There is one important thing to note from all of this though.

      Science tries to create prediction models based on observed data. The more chaotic an observed system is (and the more parameters you have to track), the more difficult it becomes to create a correct model.

      This is the reason why there are so much debate around climate science. Both weather and climate are very chaotic systems, which makes it very difficult to create good models. There are just too many parameters involved.

      Gravity on the other
  • by bheer ( 633842 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reehbr'> on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:40AM (#15415024)
    but this is how science progresses. Wherever you see a scientist take a stand saying, "hmm, that's odd, I wonder why that happened" there's a chance that real discovery and a real increase in our understanding can happen.

    People who trot out wildly extrapolated results from global warming simulations ("OMG NY will under water by 2100!") sound to me like the same people who predicted city-sized computers back in the 50s because there was no way their simulations could have predicted microelectronics.

    Climate is a complex system with many variables, human output being only one of them. Frankly, I've always held the greens would have a much better case if they focused on quality-of-life improvements brought about by cleaner air than by trying to create artificial energy regulations in the name of global warming (which *is* happening, but it doesn't necessarily follow that humans are the sole factor).

    But hey, there's a reason green and left politics go together-- sticking it to big industry is a good way of sticking it to the Man.
    • By your words we should wait until the water has already risen to obvious levels before we take action. That sounds to me like a Katrina style disaster. People predicted a terrible hurricane would come but in the end they weren't prepared because there was no "hard" evidence.

      It's the same deal with global warming. It is happening, that has never been questioned. The question is simply how much of a role humans play, no one factor plays a sole role in it but humans certainly do have the power to affect it.

    • Have you not ever heard that it's better to err on the side of caution?
      • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @09:12AM (#15415536)
        Have you not ever heard that it's better to err on the side of caution?

        Sure, but how do you define caution? To the extent that human activity can be directly associated with measurable, specific climate factors... and to the extent that specific changes in regulatory roles or carbon bartering, etc. will have some identifiable outcome, you've got something to talk about. But since there's absolutely no way to be that specific, we have to look at specific, economy-wounding proposals with a wary eye. Why? Because the only thing that will reduce emissions is better technology and the huge, culture-wide adoption of same.

        And the only way that gets done is in the presence of a thriving economy that has the largess to invest in such things, and families with enough income to do things like build more efficient houses and take a net loss for driving a hybrid, etc. When you tax the bejesus out of people, or limit the high-tech economies most able to actually spend billions of dollars on researching/developing bio-fuels and other marginal improvements, you slow, rather than accelerate the cure for our part (such as it is) of the warming trend. But when the same protocols that would damage the most innovative economies allow the dirtiest (in terms of emissions and rapid growth thereof) economies (say, China, or India) to just blast away as if it were 100 years ago when no one knew any better... well, that's not "erring on the side of caution."

        If you crush the profitable economies even as they are already leading the way to more efficient energy use... you're going to set back the progress more than by any other means.
  • Thanks HP (Score:4, Funny)

    by Uukrul ( 835197 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @04:40AM (#15415028)
    That's because HP printers have Ozone Emissions [hp.com]. Thanks HP for saving the World.
  • by Zane Hopkins ( 894230 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @05:00AM (#15415061) Homepage
    that geeks have lost their only excuse for not using deodorant ?
  • by celardore ( 844933 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:02AM (#15415162)
    Apparently the fumes given off by photocopiers are Ozone. I'm doing my bit for the enviroment by copying documents at work unnessecarily.

    My boss says it's a waste of time and money though. He doesn't give a shit about the enviroment I guess.
  • Global warming (Score:3, Informative)

    by Godji ( 957148 ) on Saturday May 27, 2006 @06:46AM (#15415222) Homepage
    The best lecture on global warming I've ever read is this:

    http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches _quote04.html [crichton-official.com]
    • Citing Michael Crichton in an argument about climatology is like citing Oliver Stone in an argument about history.
  • Cool, now we can start polluting again! :(

    Now seriously, don't let anyone ignore one of the sentences in the article:

    Today, almost 20 years later, reports continue of large ozone holes opening over Antarctica, allowing dangerous UV rays through to Earth's surface. Indeed, the 2005 ozone hole was one of the biggest ever, spanning 24 million sq km in area, nearly the size of North America.
  • Think of the ozone layer as Earth's sunglasses, protecting life on the surface from the harmful glare of the sun's strongest ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer and other maladies.

    Thanks NASA, I'm confused now. Lets not slap the public with too much cold hard science at once. A diagram of the earth wearing sunglasses might help me understand how that can help it prevent skin cancer and other maladies. My two year can think of a better opener -- "I've got new shoes" seems to be slightly more i

  • It's been pretty well demonstrated that the damage to the ozone layer was helping to keep the earth cool. If it repairs itself, global warming will happen even faster! Quick! Everyone back to air conditioners that actually work and armpit spray! Hurry! Hurry!
  • From the article:

    "While the ozone hole over Antarctica continues to open wide, the ozone layer around the rest of the planet seems to be on the mend."

    OK, so the ozone hole over Antarctica "continues to open wide", and you're telling me that the ozoner layer is improving? WTF? O.o
  • Perhaps this is just the result of a self-maintaining O2/O3 cycle, in response to our destruction of upper O3.

    Oxygen can be broken by UV, but splitting it mixes a lot of free O atoms with the existing O2, encouraging Ozone production. Ozone blocks UV, and Ozone lifts itself slowly to our upper atmosphere, protecting the Oxygen (and us) below. So long as there's sufficient Oxygen available to feed this process, you can view this as a self-maintaining cycle, where depleted Ozone will be (slowly) responded to
  • So this means I can take off the sunscreen and glasses now?

"Marriage is low down, but you spend the rest of your life paying for it." -- Baskins