Archive for the ‘Ozone hole’ Category

30th Anniversary of Farman et al. (1985) – the ozone hole paper

May 15, 2015

It’s been 30 years since Farman et al. published their paper on the ozone “hole”. (Well, I’m a day early but who posts on Saturdays, eh?)

Farman_abstract

It had a huge impact: it’s been cited nearly 3,000 times and accelerated the negotiations that resulted in the Montreal Protocol, which helped phase out the chemicals that were damaging the ozone layer. Those chemicals can stay in the atmosphere for a very long time so the ozone “hole” is far from fixed, which can sometimes cause confusion over the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol. It’ll probably be decades still until the “hole” is fixed (see the Annual Records at the bottom left-hand side of this NASA page for historical data.)

This slow recover particularly interests me at the moment as I recently did a little bit of work on the health risks associated with the hole at its peak for those living and working in Antarctica. This may become a more important problem in the future if further warming and ice sheet retreat make regions like the Antarctic Peninsula easier to inhabit, work in and/or exploit. Hopefully I’ll get to a bit more work on this soon.

And I’ve always had a real soft spot for the paper as the ozone “hole” was the first time that I remember being aware of an environmental issue, despite being pretty young at the time (I was at primary school 30 years ago). I suspect that it played a large in shaping my view of the world and my career direction so I thought I should note the anniversary.

So, Happy Birthday Farman et al. (1985)!

If you want to get deeper into the ozone “hole” then Chapter 7 in Volume I of “Late Lessons from Early Warnings”, written by Joe Farman, is quite nice and the chapter in Merchants of Doubt is a good read on this as well. [Update, 15/5/2015 0937] There also a BBC “Costing the Earth” episode on the 30th anniversary of the ozone hole but I’ve not listened to it yet (thanks to @jimmcquaid on twitter for pointing me in that direction).

Reference

Farman, J., Gardiner, B., & Shanklin, J. (1985). Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal ClOx/NOx interaction Nature, 315 (6016), 207-210 DOI: 10.1038/315207a0

Health risks on the Antarctic Peninsula – what’s happening with the ozone hole, UV exposure, environmental change and funding for Antarctic science?

April 3, 2015

ResearchBlogging.org

I recently had a paper published in Antarctic Science – I don’t think that it’ll set the world on fire but it was quite interesting in how it came about so I thought I’d write a blogpost about it.

The study

The measurements for the study were taken by a team who sailed across the Drake Passage and then then spent some time on and around the Antarctic Peninsula. They deployed a small “badge” each day that responds to sunlight in a way that allows you to subsequently work out how much UV radiation they were exposed to. From these measurements we concluded that the UV exposure experienced was comparable to temperate, mid-latitude locations in the spring/late summer. Obviously the team was very well covered as it’s cold down there but this can nonetheless have impacts on the eyes and exposed skin.

This is quite important as the ozone “hole” over Antarctica is likely to be about as bad as it will get before recovering over the next few decades and exposure risk might increase in this region if there are significant environmental changes (e.g. further warming, ice sheet retreat). This paper represents something of a pilot study so I’d love to get a more rigorous experiment up-and-running one day.

The BSAE team on the Antarctic Peninsula. The badges were mounted on one of the sledges. Photo taken by Martin Densham.

The BSAE team on the Antarctic Peninsula. The badges were mounted on one of the sledges. Photo taken by Martin Densham.

The study’s origins: networking on social media

The idea for the experiment and the paper first came about on twitter. Someone I’d never previously worked with (or met) invited me along to a planning meeting for the 2012 British Services Antarctic Expedition (BSAE) simply because I had a twitter account where I posted interesting stories about Antarctica.

I then cobbled together a tiny bit of money from the Royal Meteorological Society and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) to get the badges produced and analysed at the University of Manchester.

I was quite impressed that we managed to get a relatively interesting bit of work done with so little resource. Which brings us on to…

…funding for Antarctic science

Budgets for science have not been increasing recently so perhaps it’s time that we have to start thinking of less traditional ways of getting work done. My example might not be particularly useful as it all happened largely by accident! However, there’s an interesting piece in The Conversation by Adrian McCallum about the role of private funding in Antarctic research that is probably more informed on this topic. Might be worth a read if you’re thinking of this type of thing.

Reference

Russell, A., Gohlan, M., Smedley, A., & Densham, M. (2014). The ultraviolet radiation environment during an expedition across the Drake Passage and on the Antarctic Peninsula Antarctic Science DOI: 10.1017/S0954102014000790