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Earth's Ozone is in Good Shape, Scientists Say

May 27, 2015 02:51 PM EDT

Earth's ozone is in good shape, according to scientists, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, which has helped us avoid severe ozone depletion.

After years of dangerous depletion that left a giant hole over Antarctica, our ozone is finally recovering. Once scientists realized that bromine-containing halons and chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were eating away at the Earth's protective layer, leaders enacted the 1987 Montreal Protocol banning such chemicals.

Now we are reaping the rewards, with the ozone layer in much better shape than it would have been without the United Nations (UN) treaty.

"Our research confirms the importance of the Montreal Protocol and shows that we have already had real benefits. We knew that it would save us from large ozone loss 'in the future', but in fact we are already past the point when things would have become noticeably worse," lead author Professor Martyn Chipperfield, from the School of Earth & Environment at the University of Leeds, said in a press release.

Concentrations of these harmful substances can survive in the atmosphere for many years. However, the good news is that concentrations peaked in 1993 and have subsequently started shrinking.

In the new study, the researchers used a state-of-the-art 3D computer model of atmospheric chemistry to investigate what would have happened to the ozone layer if the Montreal Protocol had not been put in place.

The researchers suggest that the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic would have grown in size by an additional 40 percent by 2013. Their model also suggests that had ozone-depleting substances continued to increase, the ozone layer would have become significantly thinner over other parts of the globe.

Such would have been the case especially during extreme events like the exceptionally cold Arctic winter of 2010-2011.

Without the Montreal Protocol, the new study reveals that a very large ozone hole over the Arctic would have occurred during that cold winter and smaller Arctic ozone holes would have become a regular occurrence.

According to the team behind this new study, scientists must continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure all potential threats to the ozone layer are mitigated.

The findings are described in further detail in the journal Nature Communications.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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