The Ozone Layer Update 3-9-2009

Ozone Levels Drop When Hurricanes Are Strengthening
06.08.05

Scientists are continually exploring different aspects of hurricanes to increase the understanding of how they behave. Recently, NASA-funded scientists from Florida State University looked at ozone around hurricanes and found that ozone levels drop as a hurricane is intensifying.

In a recent study, Xiaolei Zou and Yonghui Wu, researchers at Florida State University found that variations of ozone levels from the surface to the upper atmosphere are closely related to the formation, intensification and movement of a hurricane.
They studied ozone levels in 12 hurricanes and looked at total ozone levels, that is, from the ground to the upper atmosphere. Now scientists have clues on how a hurricane behaves when the ozone levels are high and low.

Zou and Wu noticed that over 100 miles, the area of a hurricane typically has low levels of ozone from the surface to the top of the hurricane. Whenever a hurricane intensifies, it appears that the ozone levels throughout the storm decrease. When they looked at the storm with ozone data a hurricane's eye becomes very clear. Because forecasters always try to pinpoint the eye of the hurricane, this knowledge will help with locating the exact position and lead to better tracking.

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The OZONE 2009

(Washington, D.C. – March 9, 2009) Responding to last year’s massive coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Kingston, Tennessee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today laid out new efforts to prevent future threats to human health and the environment.

The agency’s plan includes measures to gather critical coal ash impoundment information from electrical utilities nationwide, conduct on-site assessments to determine structural integrity and vulnerabilities, order cleanup and repairs where needed, and develop new regulations for future safety.

“Environmental disasters like the one last December in Kingston should never happen anywhere in this country,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “That is why we are announcing several actions to help us properly protect the families who live near these facilities and the places where they live, work, play and learn.”

The December 2008 release of coal ash from TVA’s Kingston, Tennessee facility flooded more than 300 acres of land, damaging homes and property. Coal ash from the release flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers, filling large areas of the rivers and killing fish. TVA cost estimates for the clean-up range between $525 million and $825 million, which does not include long-term cleanup costs.

In letters today, EPA requested that electric utilities that have surface impoundments or similar units provide information about the structural integrity of their units. EPA estimates there may be as many as 300 such units. These information requests are legally enforceable and must be responded to fully.

Working closely with other federal agencies and the states, EPA will review the information provided by the facilities to identify impoundments or similar units that need priority attention. EPA also will visit many of these facilities to see first hand if the management units are structurally sound.

The agency will require appropriate remedial action at any facility that is found to pose a risk for potential failure.

The assessment and analysis of all such units located at electric utilities in the U.S. will be compiled in a report and made available to the public.

Canada and The US 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C., Friday, April 13, 2007 - The Honourable John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, announced today that Canada and the U.S. will start negotiations for an annex to the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement aimed at reducing the cross-border flow of air pollution and its impact on the health and ecosystems of Canadians and Americans.Minister Baird and Administrator Johnson met to discuss common cross-border and global environment priorities. The officials noted that both Canada and the U.S. recognize that cooperative action can reduce the transboundary flow of particulate matter originating on either side of the border.

“Canada’s New Government is committed to improving the quality of the air we breathe,” said Minister Baird. “This work announced today will complement the concrete actions this government is taking at home to reduce greenhouse gases and the pollutants that cause climate change and smog.”  

“Pollution, especially air pollution, knows no geographic or political borders,” said Administrator Johnson. “Our nations are committed to becoming better environmental neighbors, and the negotiation of this annex will strengthen the successful U.S.-Canadian collaboration helping clean the air for North American residents for generations.”<

The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement, negotiated in 1991, marked a new era of cooperation aimed at helping to guarantee cleaner air and a healthier environment for millions of Americans and Canadians. The Particulate Matter Annex would complement the annex negotiated in 2000 addressing ground-level ozone, as well as the original annexes on acid rain and scientific cooperation.

Particulate matter consists of airborne particles in solid or liquid form. The pollutant can be emitted directly at the emissions source, for example, from a smokestack of an electrical power plant or as the result of reactions between chemicals (precursors) as they are transported through the atmosphere. Numerous studies have linked particulate matter, especially fine particulate matter, to cardiac and respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, and to various forms of heart disease. Recent scientific analysis has shown that joint strategies are needed to address these pollutants. This research, conducted over the last three years, has shown that emissions of particulate matter and its precursors can significantly affect air quality in both countries. The annex will result in reductions in particulate matter as well as many of the chemicals that contribute to other air quality issues of concern such as acid rain, regional haze and visibility in the communities along the U.S.-Canada border.

Report Shows Inaction No Longer a Viable Option 1-23-2007

Washington, DC -- The Pew Center on Global Climate Change today released, “Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change,” a how to guide for corporate decision makers as they navigate rapidly changing global markets. The report presents an in-depth look at the development and implementation of corporate strategies that take into account climate-related risks and opportunities.

The report, authored by Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan, lays out a step-by-step approach for companies to reshape their core business strategies in order to succeed in a future marketplace where greenhouse gases are regulated and carbon-efficiency is in demand. The research shows a growing consensus among corporate leaders that taking action on climate change is a sensible business decision. Many of the companies highlighted in the report are shifting their focus from managing the financial risks of climate change to exploiting new business opportunities for energy efficient and low-carbon products and services.

Relying on six highly detailed, on-site case studies, as well as results from a 100-question survey completed by 31 companies, the report offers a unique and in-depth look at the development and implementation of corporate strategies that address climate change. The featured case studies include Alcoa, Cinergy (now Duke Energy), DuPont, Shell, Swiss Re, and Whirlpool Corporation.

One of the clearest conclusions is that businesses need to engage actively with government in the development of climate policy. Of 31 major corporations polled by the report author, nearly all companies believe that federal greenhouse gas standards are imminent, and 84 percent of these companies believe regulations will take effect before 2015. The report offers policy makers insight into how companies are moving forward on climate change and how they can most effectively engage in the policy discussion.

“If you look at what is happening today at the state level and in the Congress, a proactive approach in the policy arena clearly makes sound business sense” said the Pew Center’s Eileen Claussen. “In the corporate world, inaction is no longer an option.”

NASA and NOAA Announce Ozone Hole is a Double Record Breaker 10.19.06

NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists report this year's ozone hole in the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere has broken records for area and depth. The ozone layer acts to protect life on Earth by blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The "ozone hole" is a severe depletion of the ozone layer high above Antarctica. It is primarily caused by human-produced compounds that release chlorine and bromine gases in the stratosphere.

"From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles," said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. If the stratospheric weather conditions had been normal, the ozone hole would be expected to reach a size of about 8.9 to 9.3 million square miles, about the surface area of North America.

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite measures the total amount of ozone from the ground to the upper atmosphere over the entire Antarctic continent. This instrument observed a low value of 85 Dobson Units (DU) on Oct. 8, in a region over the East Antarctic ice sheet. Dobson Units are a measure of ozone amounts above a fixed point in the atmosphere. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument was developed by the Netherlands' Agency for Aerospace Programs, Delft, The Netherlands, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland.

Scientists from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., use balloon-borne instruments to measure ozone directly over the South Pole. By Oct. 9, the total column ozone had plunged to 93 DU from approximately 300 DU in mid-July. More importantly, nearly all of the ozone in the layer between eight and 13 miles above the Earth's surface had been destroyed. In this critical layer, the instrument measured a record low of only 1.2 DU., having rapidly plunged from an average non-hole reading of 125 DU in July and August.

"These numbers mean the ozone is virtually gone in this layer of the atmosphere," said David Hofmann, director of the Global Monitoring Division at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. "The depleted layer has an unusual vertical extent this year, so it appears that the 2006 ozone hole will go down as a record-setter."

Observations by Aura's Microwave Limb Sounder show extremely high levels of ozone destroying chlorine chemicals in the lower stratosphere (approximately 12.4 miles high). These high chlorine values covered the entire Antarctic region in mid to late September. The high chlorine levels were accompanied by extremely low values of ozone.

The temperature of the Antarctic stratosphere causes the severity of the ozone hole to vary from year to year. Colder than average temperatures result in larger and deeper ozone holes, while warmer temperatures lead to smaller ones. The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) provided analyses of satellite and balloon stratospheric temperature observations. The temperature readings from NOAA satellites and balloons during late-September 2006 showed the lower stratosphere at the rim of Antarctica was approximately nine degrees Fahrenheit colder than average, increasing the size of this year's ozone hole by 1.2 to 1.5 million square miles.

The Antarctic stratosphere warms by the return of sunlight at the end of the polar winter and by large-scale weather systems (planetary-scale waves) that form in the troposphere and move upward into the stratosphere. During the 2006 Antarctic winter and spring, these planetary-scale wave systems were relatively weak, causing the stratosphere to be colder than average.

As a result of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the concentrations of ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) peaked around 1995 and are decreasing in both the troposphere and stratosphere. It is estimated these gases reached peak levels in the Antarctica stratosphere in 2001. However, these ozone-depleting substances typically have very long lifetimes in the atmosphere (more than 40 years).

As a result of this slow decline, the ozone hole is estimated to annually very slowly decrease in area by about 0.1 to 0.2 percent for the next five to 10 years. This slow decrease is masked by large year-to-year variations caused by Antarctic stratosphere weather fluctuations. The recently completed 2006 World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion concluded the ozone hole recovery would be masked by annual variability for the near future and the ozone hole would fully recover in approximately 2065.

"We now have the largest ozone hole on record for this time of year," said Craig Long of NCEP. As the sun rises higher in the sky during October and November, this unusually large and persistent area may allow much more ultraviolet light than usual to reach Earth's surface in the southern latitudes.

BALLOONS CARRYING UNH-BUILT OZONE INSTRUMENT PROBE GULF OF MEXICO AIR

Sept. 26, 2006 — Six "smart" balloons carrying a state-of-the-art, miniature sensor for measuring ozone designed and built by scientists at the University of New Hampshire, recently completed a series of flights measuring levels of the pollutant in the Houston area and over the Gulf of Mexico as part of 2006 Texas Air Quality Study II.The balloons—termed "smart" because they are designed to allow operators to remotely control their vertical height to sample different layers of the atmosphere—measured the ozone concentration and a number of other meteorological variables while immersed in plumes of urban of air.

Houston has one of the highest levels of ozone in the U.S., and scientists are trying to better understand how the pollutant is exported from "mega-polluted" areas such as Houston and Mexico City and what its impact is on the air quality of the Northern Hemisphere. The first smart balloon, which stayed aloft for more than three days and traveled more than 2,500 kilometers before landing in Florida, encountered ozone levels in excess of 200 parts per billion in polluted air over the Gulf of Mexico. Such high levels of ozone are considered unhealthy under guidelines established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The balloons provide a very unique platform," says Robert Talbot, director of the UNH Climate Change Research Center within the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space where the miniature ozone sensor was developed. "

The real power of the balloons is the continuous observation on spatial scales that other platforms can't do," said Talbot. For example, a smart balloon, drifting at 10 meters per second in a polluted plume of air, can make much higher resolution measurements than an aircraft traveling ten times faster and flying in and out of the plume.

The balloons provided a new perspective on the flow and dispersion of pollution from the Houston area, and will help scientists learn how these plumes disperse over the Gulf of Mexico in particular so that computer models can be improved to better simulate and predict those processes.

Faculty and students from UNH and the University of Hawaii will work in collaboration with NOAA scientists in analyzing the data obtained during the smart balloon flights. The NOAA Air Resources Laboratory Field Research Division, in collaboration with the University of Hawaii, developed the smart balloon technology.
UNH led the overall balloon project for the summer Texas air quality campaign. Scientists and students from UNH also participated in the study by measuring levels of atmospheric nitric acid from the NOAA Research Vessel Ronald H. Brown and from an 18-story building on the University of Houston campus. UNH graduate students also measured the chemical composition and levels of aerosols in the Houston area.

The miniature ozone sensor was first deployed in the summer of 2004 during a massive air quality study called the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation or ICARTT.

Talbot notes that continued work done by UNH engineers has upgraded the ozone sensor from a first-generation instrument to a "true research-grade precision instrument. The overall quality of the measurement is very high, accurate and reliable, and the sensor can respond to changes in ozone very quickly," Talbot said. The UNH smart balloon work was funded under the Targeted Wind Sensing program while the other measurements made by UNH scientists were done under the university's AIRMAP program.

Ozone Info From NASA

A new study using NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data finds consistent evidence that Earth's ozone layer is on the mend.

A team led by Eun-Su Yang of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, analyzed 25 years of independent ozone observations at different altitudes in Earth's stratosphere, which lies between six and 31 miles above the surface. The observations were gathered from balloons.A new study using The stratosphere is Earth's second lowest atmospheric layer. It contains approximately 90 percent of all atmospheric ozone. The researchers concluded the Earth's protective ozone layer outside of the polar regions stopped thinning around 1997. Ozone in these areas declined steadily from 1979 to 1997.

The abundance of human-produced ozone-destroying gases such as chlorofluorocarbons peaked at about the same time (1993 in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, 1997 in the stratosphere). Such substances were phased out after the 1987 international Montreal Protocol was enacted.

To measure ozone at different altitudes in the stratosphere, the team combined data from balloons and independent ground-based observing networks with monthly averaged satellite data. The satellite data came from five independent NASA and NOAA instruments.

Measurements were compared with computer predictions of ozone recovery that considered actual measured variations in human-produced ozone-destroying chemicals. The calculations took into account other factors that can affect ozone levels, such as sunspot cycle behavior, seasonal changes and stratospheric wind patterns.

>quot;These results confirm the Montreal Protocol and its amendments have succeeded in stopping the loss of ozone in the stratosphere," Yang said. "At the current recovery rate, the atmospheric modeling community's best estimates predict the global ozone layer could be restored to 1980 levels-- the time that scientists first noticed the harmful effects human activities were having on atmospheric ozone — some time in the middle of this century."

The researchers concluded approximately one half the observed ozone change was in the region of the stratosphere above 11 miles and the rest in the lower stratosphere from six to 11 miles. The researchers attribute the ozone improvement above 11 miles almost entirely to the Montreal Protocol.

"Scientists expected the Montreal Protocol to be working in the middle and upper stratosphere and it is," said co-author Mike Newchurch of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "The real surprise of our research was the degree of ozone recovery we found at lower altitudes, below the middle stratosphere. There, ozone is improving faster than we expected, and appears to be due to changes in atmospheric wind patterns, the causes of which are not yet well understood. Until the cause of the recent ozone increase in the lowermost stratosphere is better understood, making high-accuracy predictions of how the entire ozone layer will behave in the future will remain an elusive goal. Continued careful observation and modeling are required to understand how the ozone recovery process will evolve."

"Our study is unique because it measures changes in the ozone layer at all heights in the atmosphere, then compares the data with models as well as observations from other instruments that measure variations in the total amount of ozone in the atmosphere," said Ross Salawitch, a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Results are published in the latest Journal of Geophysical Research.

NASA's AURA satellite peers into Earth's ozone hole Here seasonal changes of ozone and other chemicals in the lower stratosphere are shown over the Arctic and Antarctic during the past year.

NASA researchers, using data from the agency's AURA satellite, determined the seasonal ozone hole that developed over Antarctica this year is smaller than in previous years.<

ASA's 2005 assessment of the size and thickness of the ozone layer was the first based on observations from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on the agency's Aura spacecraft. Aura was launched in 2004.

This year's ozone hole measured 9.4 million square miles at its peak between September and mid-October, which was slightly larger than last year's peak. The size of the ozone hole in 1998, the largest ever recorded, averaged 10.1 million square miles. For 10 of the past 12 years, the Antarctic ozone hole has been larger than 7.7 million square miles. Before 1985, it measured less than 4 million square miles.

The protective ozone layer over Antarctica annually undergoes a seasonal change, but since the first satellite measurements in 1979, the ozone hole has gotten larger. Human-produced chlorine and bromine chemicals can lead to the destruction of ozone in the stratosphere. By international agreement, these damaging chemicals were banned in 1995, and their levels in the atmosphere are decreasing.

Another important factor in how much ozone is destroyed each year is the temperature of the air high in the atmosphere. As with temperatures on the ground, some years are colder than others. When it's colder in the stratosphere, more ozone is destroyed. The 2005 ozone hole was approximately 386,000 square miles larger than it would have been in a year with normal temperatures, because it was colder than average. Only twice in the last decade has the ozone hole shrunk to the size it typically was in the late 1980s. Those years, 2002 and 2004, were the warmest of the period.

>Scientists also monitor how much ozone there is in the atmosphere from the ground to space. The thickness of the Antarctic ozone layer was the third highest of the last decade, as measured by the lowest reading recorded during the year. The level was 102 Dobson Units (the system of measurement designated to gauge ozone thickness). That is approximately one-half as thick as the layer before 1980 during the same time of year.

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument is the latest in a series of ozone-observing instruments flown by NASA over the last two decades. This instrument provides a more detailed view of ozone and is also able to monitor chemicals involved in ozone destruction. The instrument is a contribution to the mission from the Netherlands' Agency for Aerospace Programs in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute is the principal investigator on the instrument.

PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE RELEASES FIRST COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE All Sectors Must Share in Solution

The report concludes that there is no single technology fix, no single policy instrument, and no single sector that can solve this problem on its own.  Rather, a combination of technology investment and market development will provide for the most cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases, and will create a thriving market for GHG-reducing technologies.  To address climate change without placing the burden on any one group, the report urges actions throughout the economy.&nbsp “

Some believe the answer to addressing climate change lies in technology incentives.  Others say limiting emissions is the only answer.  We need both,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center.

Emissions in the United States continue to rise at an alarming rate.  U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have grown by more than 18% since 1990, and the Department of Energy now projects that they will increase by another 37% by 2030. 

Joining the Pew Center at the announcement were representatives from the energy and manufacturing sectors.  Speaking at the release were:  David Hone, Group Climate Change Adviser, Shell International Limited; Melissa Lavinson, Director, Federal Environmental Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, PG&E Corporation; Bill Gerwing, Western Hemisphere Health, Safety, Security, and Environment Director, BP; John Stowell, Vice President, Environmental Strategy, Federal Affairs and Sustainability, Cinergy Corp., Ruksana Mirza, Vice President, Environmental Affairs, Holcim (US) Inc.; and Tom Catania, Vice President, Government Relations, Whirlpool Corporation. Recommendations:

While actions are needed across all sectors, some steps will have a more significant, far-reaching impact on emissions than others and must be undertaken as soon as possible. 

• A program to cap emissions from large sources and allow for emissions trading will send a signal to curb releases of greenhouse gases while promoting a market for new technologies. • Transportation is responsible for roughly one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions, and this report addresses this sector through tradable emissions standards for vehicles. • Because energy is at the core of the climate change problem, the report makes several recommendations in this area: calling for increased efficiency in buildings and products, as well as in electricity generation and distribution.  Incentives and a nationwide platform to track and trade renewable energy credits are recommended to support increased renewable power.  In recognition of the key role that coal plays in U.S. energy supply, the report calls for the capture and sequestration of carbon that results from burning coal. Nuclear power currently provides a substantial amount of non-emitting electricity, and is therefore important to keep in the generation mix. The report recommends support for advanced generation of nuclear power, while noting that issues such as safety and waste disposal must also be addressed. • While most of the recommendations focus on mitigation efforts, the report acknowledges that some impacts are inevitable and are already being seen. As a result, it proposes development of a national adaptation strategy to plan for a climate-changing world.  • Finally, despite the importance of efforts by individual countries on this issue, climate change cannot be addressed without engagement of the broader international community.  The report recommends that the U.S. participate in international negotiations aimed at curbing global greenhouse gas emissions by all major emitting countries.<

Other recommendations include: long-term stable research funding, incentives for low-carbon fuels and consumer products, funding for biological sequestration, expanding the natural gas supply and distribution network, and a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting program that can provide a stepping stone to economy-wide emissions trading.&nbsp The full text of this and other Pew Center reports is available at http://www.pewclimate.org.

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