In a new study that was published just ahead of World Meteorological Day 2022 in the journal, ‘Science‘, researchers have found that smoke from wildfires can destroy the ozone layer. The study, which was conducted under the umbrella of Peter Bernath, a research professor in Waterloo’s Department of Chemistry, warns that if major fires become more frequent with a changing climate, more damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun will reach the ground. This could have serious consequences for both human health and the environment.
The Earth’s ozone shield is a necessary protective layer in the sky that absorbs UV rays and helps keep us safe from cancer-causing sunspots.
The researchers used data from ACE, an instrument on Canada’s satellite that tracks atmospheric chemistry. They discovered how smoke particles affect the stratosphere in a new way we weren’t aware of before.
“The Australian fires injected acidic smoke particles into the stratosphere, disrupting a process that regulates ozone,” Peter Bernth said in reference to their study.
The study showed that the smoke from this fire not only damages our atmosphere but also changes it by converting certain compounds into more reactive ones, which are known to destroy ozone.
It is important to note that the holes over Polar regions are a temporary effect, and once they disappear, ozone levels in our atmosphere back down again. However, an increased frequency of wildfires could mean more destruction as these fires would make life more difficult in the region in the future if not controlled.
“The ACE satellite has been floating through space for over 18 years, and it’s brought us a whole new perspective on what is happening up here in Earth’s atmosphere. With this one-of-kind mission we will be able to get an accurate picture of how different molecules move throughout our Changing Environment” Bernath added.