Satellites show that the recent ozone hole over Antarctica was the smallest seen in the past decade. Long-term observations also reveal that Earth’s ozone has been strengthening following international agreements to protect this vital layer of the atmosphere.
According to the ozone sensor on Europe’s MetOp weather satellite, the hole over Antarctica in 2012 was the smallest in the last 10 years.
The instrument continues the long-term monitoring of atmospheric ozone started by its predecessors on the ERS-2 and Envisat satellites.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, an ozone hole has developed over Antarctica during the southern spring - September to November - resulting in a decrease in ozone concentration of up to 70%.
Ozone depletion is more extreme in Antarctica than at the North Pole because high wind speeds cause a fast-rotating vortex of cold air, leading to extremely low temperatures. Under these conditions, human-made chlorofluorocarbons - CFCs - have a stronger effect on the ozone, depleting it and creating the infamous hole.
Seismologists hunting for ways to predict earthquakes in advance have stumbled on a potential breakthrough — detecting ozone generated by rocks fracturing deep underground.
The research, published in Applied Physics Letters, details how stone breaking apart under pressure releases ozone. The team, led by Raúl A. Baragiola, a professor of engineering physics in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, crushed and drilled into different types of volcanic rock, including granite, basalt, gneiss, rhyolite and quartz. They found that different rocks gave off different quantities of ozone, with rhyolite producing the most.
The team conducted experiments in pure oxygen, nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide, but found that ozone was only produced when there were oxygen atoms present in the air, in the oxygen and carbon dioxide environments. That suggests that it’s a reaction in the gas that’s producing the ozone, specifically when exoelectrons are emitted by high electric fields, resulting from charge separation during fracture — which is a similar process to the way some materials phosphoresce.
While Baragiola began the study by wondering if animals, which are said to behave oddly just before earthquakes, are detecting changes in ozone concentration, but then realized that ozone detectors might be able to be used as warning devices, bypassing the animal element altogether.
“If future research shows a positive correlation between ground-level ozone near geological faults and earthquakes, an array of interconnected ozone detectors could monitor anomalous patterns when rock fracture induces the release of ozone from underground and surface cracks,” he said, adding: “Such an array, located away from areas with high levels of ground ozone, could be useful for giving early warning to earthquakes.”
He also suggested that an ozone detector array could forewarn of disasters in tunnel excavation, landslides and underground mines.
OFFICE OF INFORMATION AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
September 2, 2011
Dear Administrator Jackson:
On July 11, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a draft final rule, “Reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone Primary and Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” for review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under Executive Orders 13563 and 12866. The President has instructed me to return this rule to you for reconsideration. He has made it clear that he does not support finalizing the rule at this time.
OIRA shares EPA’s strong and continued commitment to using its regulatory authorities, including the Clean Air Act (the Act), to protect public health and welfare. Over the last two and a half years, EPA has issued a significant number of rules to provide such protection, We also recognize that the relevant provisions of the Clean Air Act forbid EPA to consider costs in deciding on the stringency of national ambient air quality standards, both primary and secondary.
Nonetheless, we believe that the draft final rule warrants your reconsideration. We emphasize three related points:
1. Under the Act, finalizing a new standard now is not mandatory and could produce needless uncertainty. The Act explicitly sets out a five-year cycle for review of national ambient air quality standards. The current cycle began in 2008, and EPA will be compelled to revisit the most recent standards again in 2013. The new scientific work related to those forthcoming standards has already started (see point 2 below). A key sentence of Executive Order 13563 states that our regulatory system “must promote predictability and reduce uncertainty.” In this light, issuing a final rule in late 2011 would be problematic in view of the fact that a new assessment, and potentially new standards, will be developed in the relatively near future.
2. The draft reconsideration necessarily depends on the most recent recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which in turn rely on a review of the scientific literature as of 2006. Executive Order 13563 explicitly states that our regulatory system “must be based on the best available science,” As you are aware, work has already begun on a new and forthcoming scientific review, “based on the best available science.” We urge you to reconsider whether to issue a final rule in late 2011, based on evidence that is no longer the most current, when a new scientific assessment is already underway.
3. Under your leadership, EPA has taken a series of strong and unprecedented steps to protect public health by reducing harmful air pollution in general and ozone in particular. For example, EPA and the Department of Transportation recently finalized the first joint rule reducing air pollution (including ozone) from heavy-duty trucks, with overall net benefits of $33 billion. EPA also recently finalized its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which will reduce air pollution (including ozone) and which is projected to prevent 13,000 to 34,000 deaths annually, producing annual estimated net benefits in excess of $100 billion. In addition, EPA has proposed national standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants; EPA’s preliminary estimates, now out for public comment, suggest that these standards will prevent 6,800 to 18,000 premature deaths annually. These standards, whose annual net benefits are currently estimated to exceed $40 billion, are projected to reduce ozone as well. Cumulatively, these and other recently proposed and finalized rules count as truly historic achievements in protecting public health by decreasing air pollution levels, including ozone levels, across the nation.
As noted, Executive Order 13563 emphasizes that our regulatory system “must promote predictability and reduce uncertainty.” Executive Order 12866, incorporated in Executive Order 13563, states that each “agency shall avoid regulations that are inconsistent, incompatible, or duplicative with its other regulations . …” Executive Order 12866 also states that the “Administrator of OIRA shall provide meaningful guidance and oversight so that each agency’s regulatory actions are consistent with … the President’s priorities .. ..” In light of these requirements, and for the foregoing reasons, I am requesting, at the President’s direction, that you reconsider the draft final rule.
More generally, the President has directed me to continue to work closely with all executive agencies and departments to implement Executive Order 13563 and to minimize regulatory costs and burdens, particularly in this economically challenging time. The President has instructed me to give careful scrutiny to all regulations that impose significant costs on the private sector or on state, local, or tribal governments.
We look forward to continuing to work with you to create, in the words of Executive Order 13563, a regulatory system that will “protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.”
Cass R. Sunstein
Original PDF here.
Exxon Mobil Corp. has told Texas environmental regulators there was an eight-week-long, 108,000-pound propylene release at the company’s refinery complex near Houston.
Irving, Texas-based Exxon reported to regulators a tubing leak was discovered on June 2 in the chemical plant portion of the sprawling complex in Baytown. The leak was isolated within a half-hour, but Exxon says the leak may have started on April 12.
Propylene is a component of ground-level ozone. According to the report, Exxon isn’t permitted to release any propylene at the olefins plant.
Another reason why people in the far North and far South get gray hairs early in life.
The depletion of the ozone layer shielding Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays has reached an unprecedented low over the Arctic this spring because of harmful chemicals and a cold winter, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday.
The Earth’s fragile ozone layer in the Arctic region has suffered a loss of about 40 percent from the start of winter until late March, exceeding the previous seasonal loss of about 30 percent, the World Meteorological Organization said.
The Geneva-based agency blamed the loss on a buildup of ozone-eating chemicals once widely used as coolants and fire retardants in a variety of appliances and on very cold temperatures in the stratosphere, the second major layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Well, this is frightening! Scientists are observing dramatic and significant changes in the skin of whales as a result of sunburn.
If you click the link, the story indicates that scientists aren’t certain why this is happening, but one candidate for the cause is exposure to increased levels of ultra-violet radiation as a result of ozone depletion or changes in cloud cover.
London, England (CNN) — Whales in Mexico’s Gulf of California are showing worsening signs of sunburn according to new report published Wednesday.
Photos and skin samples gathered by scientists from the UK’s Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Mexico’s Interdisciplinary Marine Science Center revealed blisters and changes in skin pigmentation in blue whales, fin whales and sperm whales.
Interesting. Here’s the first paragraph; click the link for the whole thing.
While the hole in the Earth’s protective ozone layer is slowly healing, its recovery might have a downside, scientists say: Climate change could change wind patterns and send ozone from high in the atmosphere down to the surface, where it is a major component of smog.