Now Thunderstorms Are Contributing To Ozone Loss?

In a recent study funded by NASA, Dr. James G. Anderson reports that super thunderstorms are now contributing to ozone loss. These thunderstorms, which were thought to only be able to rise to about 40,000ft have been recorded to rise to 60,000ft carrying with them warm, moist air. This air allows CFC’s that are already present in the stratosphere to become significantly more reactive with ozone. Even though CFC’s were banned in the 1980’s in an international treaty, it may take many decades before the molecules disintegrate or leave the upper atmosphere.

These super thunderstorms are being fueled by warmer than average summer temperatures. While this study focused on the Midwest to Eastern U.S., this could also be affecting countries at mid-latitudes across the globe. It was only thought that ozone loss was occurring mostly in the Antarctic and recently, the Arctic polar regions. This loss of ozone increases skin cancer risks through an increase of the ultraviolet rays from the sun that are able to penetrate the atmosphere. Ozone has the ability to reflect harmful ultraviolet rays away from Earth while these rays are still in the stratosphere and is considered to be a contributing factor for the stability of life on Earth.

Due to the increased loss of ozone, the recovery of the protective ozone layer may be further off than expected. We can be sure that banning CFC’s 30 years ago is definitely helping curb the ozone loss but as we consider more sources of ozone loss, we will have to re-evaluate models of the atmosphere. Atmospheric scientists are calling for more research into the phenomenon, including more direct testing through field work. I live in the “lightning capital of the world” because of the frequent, powerful thunderstorms, so I hope these effects are not as bad as thought. Now I and millions of others have to consider increased ultraviolet radiation along with the lightning, tornadoes, water spouts, powerful winds, rain, flash flooding, and occasionally hail that comes along with these powerful storms.

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