Every October we read alarmist headlines about a larger ozone hole. Why?
When the sun's energy races down to meet earth's rising warm air, sometimes three oxygen atoms stick together instead of the usual two, making an 03 molecule called ozone. The energy required comes from electrical discharges through the air such as lightning, or from the sun as ultra-violet sunlight.
You can smell ozone if you sniff around an electric motor that has arcing around the brushes — that pungent smell is the 03.
To understand the relationship between sunshine, ozone and air, remember what you see at the beach. The order is Water — Surf — Beach
The boundary where water hits beach is called ‘surf’, and in the upper atmosphere the boundary where UV light acts on oxygen, i.e. sunlight hits air is called the ‘ozone layer’. The order is Sunlight — Ozone — Air
Like surf, ozone is the result of a process, this time between UV light and oxygen (photo-chemical). There is no 'layer' of ozone, any more than there is a single layer of air; and ozone doesn't protect us from anything.
The sun's rays hit us at exactly the same time as they hit the ozone. Ozone is 6 parts per million of air and 3 millionths of one % of the stratosphere. A sieve of a million holes but with 6 blocked would not prevent anything getting through. Therefore, protection is impossible.
If we could snap our fingers and make every single last ozone molecule disappear, it would have absolutely no bearing on the amount of UV light reaching Earth.
It is the photo-chemical process itself which protects us; with ozone as a by-product. Just as a cup of ink dropped into the sea spreads out and disperses; air absorbs most UV radiation and disperses it. Air contains ozone, so ozone also combines with UV.
Skin cancer hooked up to ozone because of the endless funding available for cancer research. But if either the air or sunlight pack up, we will have long since suffocated or frozen to death before we start developing cancer.
The Poles are ozone-depletion zones because the sun shines less there and it is cold, so less UV light can meet rising warm air. NZ is under this southern depletion zone during winter. The winter "hole" becomes visible in spring when winds blow it across NZ. By December the hole is much smaller, in our summer, when skin cancer risk from the sun is higher.
We know ozone exists, with depletion over Poles. We know the Antarctic hole is bigger than over the Arctic. We know chlorine destroys ozone and man-made CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) used in refrigeration and aerosol cans contain chlorine.
But there is no link between pollutants and ozone depletion. Ozone minimums and higher mid-latitude spring values has been observed since the 1950s, well before manmade pollutants.
There is no evidence CFCs find their way 40 miles above Earth. CFCs are five times heavier than air, like a brick in a swimming pool, so dense that even as gas you could fill a bucket with it and pour the contents of one bucket into another. They are stable and un-reactive, described in dictionaries and chemistry books as inert gases.
If inert heavier-than-air substances went up into space, the more densely populated northern hemisphere would affect the Arctic more than Antarctic. But because earth is further from the sun in July than January, the southern hemisphere has the longer winter, which results in the bigger hole.
Near where ozone-depletion is monitored sits Mt Erebus, an active volcano since 1982 - about when the increased hole was discovered. Mt Erebus spews out between 50-1000 tons of superheated chlorine every day. This chlorine breaks down ozone.
Mt Erebus puts out more chlorine per year, all by itself, than all the cars and aerosol cans on earth put together could do in a decade. Erebus is not the only active volcano in the world. There are hundreds, thousands, throwing chlorine upwards every second. Methyl chloride too, has a large natural source; it is produced biologically in the oceans and chemically from biomass burning.
Picture every supermarket shelf in the country filled with cans of fly spray, then triggered magically all together. Picture how much CFC would release into the atmosphere, “destroying” ozone.
But every jet taking off destroys more ozone than you could ever destroy by squirting all those cans - 80 tons of pollutant per plane; a volume of exhaust emission equivalent to the volume of Waitemata Harbour. And that is just one jet. Tens of thousands of flights occur around the world every day.
The sun shines north of NZ. The South Pole is south of NZ. For the sun to shine through the Antarctica ozone hole onto NZ (to cause skin cancer) is a physical impossibility, unless Antarctica swaps places with Fiji.
Surf cannot in any way protect the land from the sea, and ozone cannot 'protect' the air and the land from UV. A result cannot be a protector. Lamenting that ozone depletion is taking away our protection is the same as sobbing that surfers are wearing down the surf, and as surf is all there is holding back the ocean, when surf waves disappear the water will flood over the land and destroy mankind.
Postscript: Patents run out in 30 years, and the F-12 patent expired around 1963. Large companies invested heavily in R&D to find a new refrigerant. Chemical and refrigeration companies, makers of air conditioners for cars, trucks, ships, buildings, etc realized the potential of a worldwide ban on the old technology and hired the proper scientists to push alarmism about the CFCs in the old refrigerants. The Montreal Protocol outlawed Freon and ensured a new monopoly of refrigerant production by the major chemical companies of the world.
The only thing green about the environmental movement is money.
Ken Ring of www.predictweather.com is a longrange forecaster for Australia’s Channel Seven network.