I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thunderstorms and the Ozone Layer

Hot news flash! The Eastern coast of North America has had a lot of thunderstorms lately.  Just in case you haven't watched the news lately.
A series of thunderstorms that raged across parts of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula temporarily dampened record-setting high temperatures that have gripped the state for more than a week.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/torrid-weather-sears-canada-eastern-us-with-record-temperatures/article4393827/

Violent thunderstorms barreled through the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic regions of the eastern United States late on Thursday, killing two people and cutting power to more than 130,000 homes and businesses in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Bad as the damage has been from these thunderstorms, apparently they may be thinning the ozone layer in the atmosphere.  

Harvard scientists hit us with some bad news: It looks as if climate change could actually cause the depletion of the ozone layer to resume on a wide scale, with grim implications for the United States.  .... 
The revelation comes from the researchers’ observation that warm-temperature summer storms can force moisture high up into the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that sits about 6 miles above our heads. Typically, storm updrafts are halted at a boundary just below the stratosphere, but in a series of observation flights above the U.S., the team saw that storms with sufficient power injected water vapor into the stratosphere via convection currents.  
Normally, the stratosphere is bone dry. In the Arctic and Antarctic, though, the presence of holes in the ozone layer is tied to moisture. Because water vapor raises the air temperature in the immediate vicinity, it allows compounds such as chlorine—leftover from CFCs, which will remain in our atmosphere for decades—to undergo a chemical shift into a free radical form, which then depletes ozone. In the warmer air above the U.S., the researchers measured that the local presence of water vapor increased the rate of ozone erosion as high as one hundredfold. ... 
The problem is that, as previous studies have shown, climate change is likely to mean more warm-temperature storms, especially over populated mid-latitude regions such as ours.http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/07/climate-change-could-erode-ozone-layer-over-u-s/
Depletion of the ozone layer has a multitude of effects.

The degradation of the ozone layer leads to higher levels of   ultraviolet radiation         reaching Earth's surface. This in turn can lead to a greater incidence of skin cancer, cataracts, and impaired immune systems, and is expected also to reduce crop yields, diminish the productivity of the oceans, and possibly to contribute to the decline of amphibious populations that is occurring around the world.  http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/indicat/index.html
Please note climate change itself causes reduced crop yields:   from that radical pinko magazine The Economist an article describing the effects of excess heat on corn production.

"peak, rather than average, temperatures are what matter most to maize.
Days above 30°C are particularly damaging. In otherwise normal conditions, every day the temperature is over this threshold diminishes yields by at least 1%. Moreover, days where the temperature exceeds 32°C do twice the harm of those at 31°C. And during a drought, things are worse still. Then, yields take a hit of 1.7% per day over 30°C."


One of Donald Rumsfeld's unknown unknowns biting us in the ass. Hard.  Wouldn't it be prudent to lay off burning fossil fuels? 

(Damn!  I don't know why the Blogspot quote button works on an erratic basis! Anyone else know? )

PS:  Is it perhaps a good thing that the damage from a depleted ozone layer is done in the continental United States as well as in other places?   Not that I'm wishing evil upon anyone - but damage right in one's own backyard may make it harder to cling to denial.  That damage  may galvanize public opinion and create mobs of people demanding action on climate change......

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