Australian wildfires depleted the ozone layer

Salawitch, Ross J. ; McBride, Laura A.

Année de publication

The Australian wildfires of late 2019 and early 2020 claimed the lives of 33 people and more than 1 billion animals. The fires blanketed southeastern Australia with thick smoke that may have caused the loss of an additional 417 people from hospitalizations associated with elevated levels of fine particulate matter in the air. The smoke layer led to a series of atmospheric phenomena that reduced the thickness of Earth's protective ozone layer in the stratosphere, which lies between ∼15- and 50-km altitude above the surface. The reduction of total column ozone (TCO), a measure of ozone layer thickness, was particularly strong at mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere during late 2020. Various explanations linking smoke from these wildfires to this observed decline in TCO have been proposed. This debate highlights the shortcomings in our understanding of how wildfires, which are increasingly common because of climate change, affect stratospheric chemistry and Earth's protective ozone layer.</p>

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