These cumulonimbus clouds could be silently destroying our ozone layer. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
More bad news for Mother Earth. Researchers from Harvard University have made a startling discovery - the summer storms are creating holes in the ozone layer above the United States where they shouldn't be.
The ozone layer is a protective atmospheric layer around the Earth that protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Holes in the ozone can lead to increased temperatures and dangerous UV exposure.
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The chemical process that breaks down ozone has been linked mostly to the cold polar regions, far from dense human habitation. This is because at temperatures of around minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees Celsius) reactive molecules known as free radicals steal an oxygen atom from ozone, making it the non-protective O2.
"Anytime you satisfy the proper concentration of water and temperature, these reactions will take place," said lead author of the paper Jim Anderson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Harvard University.
Water vapor from storm clouds, however, seems to push this temperature requirement up, allowing this ozone loss to take place in the skies above the United States.
Cumulonimbus clouds, which can cause severe storms, were found to travel deep into the atmosphere where the ozone layer is located and deposit water vapor
"These convective storms inject water far more deeply into the stratosphere than anybody ever suspected, and that immediately began to concern us," Jim Anderson told OurAmazingPlanet.
Using computer modeling and observations over the last few years, Anderson was able to come up with these results, although he faces skepticism.
"I don't think Jim's proven the case yet," said Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric chemistry at Texas A&M University. "We have no data to refute or support the idea."
This is one of the first times that ozone loss has been definitely tied to climate change, according to Harvard Magazine.