Scientists researching how the recent spike in extreme wildfires affects the climate say that just a few weeks of smoke surging high into the stratosphere from one intense fire can wipe out years of progress restoring Earth’s life-protecting ozone layer.
Close study of Australia’s intense Black Summer fires in late 2019 and early 2020 suggests the smoke they emitted was a “tremendous kick” to the atmosphere, depleting the ozone layer by 1 percent, said MIT scientist Susan Solomon.
“The ozone layer protects all life on the planet from ultraviolet radiation,” said Solomon, who was one of the pioneers in explaining how pollution depletes ozone while she was a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “You know that, if you’ve ever been sunburned, it increases the risk of skin cancer and eye damage.”
“Of course if it does those things to you, you can only imagine what it does to plants and animals,” she added. With numerous studies showing how UV radiation can damage certain crops and other plants, there is “good reason to be worried about safeguarding the ozone layer in a healthy state.”
The impacts of declining atmospheric ozone are not isolated to the poles. [Continue reading…]