Many of us may have heard about the depletion of the ozone layer and the negative impact that it could cause to the earth and its inhabitants and life in general. When I first came to New Zealand I’ve completely forgotten about it, and I paid the prices dear. Scroll down and you’ll see. There could be some people who may not have the right information and knowledge about the ozone layer and why it is important to us. From a layman’s perspective when we talk about the ozone layer, we are referring to an ozone shield of the Earth’s Stratosphere.
The Stratosphere is the second layer of the atmosphere as we move up from the earth upward. The Stratosphere is rich in oxygen molecules. These oxygen molecules help to heat this layer and it absorbs energy and radiation from the sun. Hence, it offers a protective layer of coating from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun and prevents it from getting into the earth. However, because of increased levels of polluting emissions from the earth, which are mostly man-made, the ozone layer may have become depleted over the past many decades. It impacts many countries and perhaps there are hardly any countries that are not impacted by the depletion of the ozone layer. In this article, I will be specifically looking at New Zealand. Our effort would be to get the right answer to the question: Does New Zealand have an ozone layer?
New Zealand has an ozone layer but it is significantly thinner than in the rest of the world as the country is located close to Antarctica where the hole in the ozone layer is.
Does the ozone hole still exist?
The existence of an ozone layer was first found out in 1985. It was discovered by Joseph C. Farman, a scientist with the help of his team. According to his studies, Antarctica in particular had seemingly lost around 40% of its ozone cover. The main culprits according to the scientist and his were human beings and their actions. Many human-made substances moved upwards towards the stratosphere and this led to the depletion of the ozone layer. Steps have been taken by the world community as a whole to identify the potential sources of pollutants that may be damaging the ozone in the stratosphere. These steps may have led to a significant reduction in the emission of harmful gases and pollutants.
Though there has been a significant reduction in emission of harmful and damaging gases a thinning of the ozone layer and an ozone hole keeps forming every winter and spring.
There are many reasons to believe that there may have been a significant reduction in the emission of harmful and potentially damaging cases and other substances. This has certainly saved the ozone layer from complete destruction. However, it may be too early to rest on our laurels and the issue may not have been solved as yet. Each winter and spring, in spite of the best efforts, ozone holes keep forming because of a number of reasons.
Unless we are able to find a permanent solution to this, it may not be right to believe that we have found a solution to this problem. CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons are the biggest culprits when it comes to creating a hole in the ozone layer. Unless we are able to regularly monitor the emission levels of CFCs and have clear data about the kind of damage that it does to the Ozone layer, it would be wrong to assume that the problem is solved and has been left behind.
Is the ozone layer thinner over New Zealand?
Whenever one talks about New Zealand, there are quite a few things that come to mind. It is considered to be one of the healthiest countries to live in. The quality of life is comparable to some of the most developed western countries. However, on the flip side, many people are also quite worried about the impact of ultraviolet rays that seemingly are able to easily penetrate the ozone layer in and around New Zealand. Hence, there is a common question that comes to our mind. Is the ozone layer thinner over New Zealand or does New Zealand have an ozone layer?
The ozone layer is the thinnest over the south pole. The nearby landmasses of Oceania (New Zealand and Australia) therefore have a thinner ozone coverage than the rest of the world.
We need to understand a few things about the way in which the ozone layer behaves above New Zealand. The layer over this country is considered to be at its thickest during the spring season. On the other hand, it is the thinnest during autumn. Summers are also considered to be risky when it comes to the impact of ultraviolet rays. This is because of an increase in UV transmission during this season. It is because of a few reasons. The ozone layer becomes thin during summer and this is further compounded by the fact that the sun stays directly overhead when compared to other seasons. Therefore the ultraviolet rays have an easier and shorter path as they move through the atmosphere.
If you have to understand about UV rays over New Zealand and how they could impact the health of people living in this country, you have to have a reasonably good understanding of the seasonal variation of the ozone layer. This could have a major impact on the quantum of UV rays that get filtered out and get into the earth in general and New Zealand and surrounding areas in particular. During some months of the year, the ozone layer in the country could be thin but it would be wrong to paint a wrong picture that the ozone layer for the entire year is unhealthy as far as this country is concerned.
Why is the ozone layer thin over New Zealand?
There are a few reasons for the ozone layer is over in New Zealand. However, many people are of the opinion and belief that the ozone layer continues to be thin and depleted throughout the year. This is not true. Yes, during some months of the year, there could be a significant reduction and depletion of the ozone layer but it again gets repaired and becomes thick for the most part of the year.
The thinning of the ozone layer starts during the spring season. This is because the movement of the sun neared the earth. During summer the sun is directly above New Zealand and many other countries and regions of the world. This makes it easy for the ultra-violet rays to pass through the ozone layer because it thins up quite significantly beginning spring and moves on into the summer season. Hence, during these few months, the ozone layer is thin. However, many people wrongly believe that this happens throughout the year. This is not true.
Apart from the above, there are a few more reasons that could contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer in New Zealand. We are listing down a few possible reasons why this country could be a bit more at risk when it comes to thinning of the ozone layer during specific months and periods of the year.
- The ozone hole in New Zealand is a phenomenon that happens in India every year. The ozone depletion does not happen during the winter season in New Zealand. This is because the sun cannot have any big impact on the ozone distribution and the entire ozone layer evens itself out. This lasts till springtime.
- A certain type of chemistry happens in the clouds over Antarctica where it gets colder than anywhere on the planet. Nitric acid and sulfuric acid from all over the world release chlorine into a form that destroys ozone.
- New Zealand is a country that is heavily dependent on dairy farming and other related industries. Many people may not be aware of this but the fact is that cow’s burping and flatulence produce significant amounts of methane of CH4 as it is also referred to. This could be a reason for the thinning of the ozone layer in New Zealand during spring and summer.
- Feeding on pasture land in New Zealand could also be one more reason for the depletion of the ozone layer across the world and New Zealand in particular. This could lead to the production of around 200 billion liters of methane every year in New Zealand alone.
- We also need to keep in mind that methane has a tendency to rise quickly and it is also not soluble in water.
- Once methane finds its way into the stratosphere it certainly has the possibility of interfering with the ozone process. It works the same as CFCs and various other chemicals. According to experts, this could also be one big reason for the growing levels of methane emission in New Zealand and this again may lead to depletion of the ozone layer, especially during the summer and spring seasons.
- New Zealand Dairy flush also happens at a time when the polar wind vortex gets reduced as the winter season comes to an end. Hence, each year, during spring and summer New Zealand continues to face the problem of ozone depletion.
- New Zealand also has a few active volcanic mountains and peaks. During any eruptions, there is an increase in the emission of SO2 or sulfur dioxide. Therefore any volcanic activity even if it is mild is followed by a reduction in Dobson Unit Reading which in other words means that there is a reasonably high chance of the ozone layer above New Zealand getting impacted and growing thin. However, in most cases, it is a temporary phenomenon and it gets auto-corrected after summer when the monsoons set in followed by autumn and winter.
Where is the ozone hole in New Zealand?
To get the right answer to this question, we must put a few things in perspective. The earth moves closer to the sun during the summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Further, because of the summer and spring season in New Zealand, the immediate atmosphere above the earth and the skies are relatively free from smoke and smog. In the absence of smog, there is hardly any pollution that could block the movement of ultraviolet rays towards the earth’s surface, especially in countries like New Zealand. The peak levels of UVR generally are about 40% more in New Zealand and other countries of the Southern Hemisphere when compared to the Northern Hemisphere.
The hole in the Ozone layer is actually over Antarctica and is therefore not in any specific place over New Zealand. The thinning of the ozone layer covers all the Oceanic continent and thereby all of New Zealand.
However, it may not be possible to exactly pinpoint the ozone hole in New Zealand. The levels of ultraviolet rays increase more during the spring and summer months. It may be a bit more in the Northern Part of the country and the coastal areas where the weather remains comparatively clear. The southern part has some tall mountain peaks and quite a few of them remain frozen for a major portion of the year. Though some bit of melting of snow may happen during spring and summer, the weather remains cool even during these months. Hence, while the southern regions of New Zealand remain relatively free from the depletion of ozone layers, the northern parts, and the coastlines may see the filtering of ultraviolet rays because of clearer skies during summer and spring. But at the end of the day, there is no way by which it is possible to pinpoint one specific area where there is an increased incidence of ozone depletion as far as New Zealand is concerned.
How is the ozone layer doing in recent years?
Many people are under the wrong belief that New Zealand has seen a big deterioration in the levels of ozone above its head. This is not true. According to some reliable and well-known studies the levels of ozone atop New Zealand may have depleted by around 10% since the 1970s. This is not desirable but at the same time, it would be wrong to suggest that the ozone layers have been dipping drastically in New Zealand over the past few years. While there has been some depletion in ozone levels, it is nothing to be worried about. It happens only during a specific period of the year during spring and summer.
While ozone depletion is a natural phenomenon in many areas of the southern hemisphere during summer and spring, the authorities and people of New Zealand are proactive when it comes to preventing man-made risks that may contribute to increased levels of ozone depletion. Efforts are being made to reduce methane emission from the dairy industry, the whole thing has to be seen from a holistic platform. The dairy industry in New Zealand is the mainstay for thousands of families across the country and therefore the country is taking steps to have the right balance between protecting the ozone layer and at the same time ensuring that the dairy industry is not badly impacted.
There is no doubt that there is an increased risk of ozone depletion in New Zealand because of its geographic location. As mentioned above, the southern hemisphere is at a higher risk of ozone depletion, and this where New Zealand is located. It is a problem that they have to learn to live with and it would not be wrong to mention here that over the decades and years, New Zealanders have found out ways by which they can reduce the negative impact of UV rays filtering through because of ozone depletion during the spring and summer seasons.