Due to which compound, ozone depletion is caused in Antarctica?

Due to which compound, ozone depletion is caused in Antarctica?


2 Answers

Suraj Prasad IIT Patna
askIITians Faculty 286 Points
7 years ago
The details of polar ozone hole formation differ from that of mid-latitude thinning but the most important process in both is catalytic destruction of ozone by atomic halogens. The main source of these halogen atoms in the stratosphere is photodissociation of man-made halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants, and foam-blowing agents (CFCs, HCFCs, freons, halons). These compounds are transported into the stratosphere after being emitted at the surface. Both types of ozone depletion have been observed to increase as emissions of halo-carbons increased.

CFCs and other contributory substances are referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). Since the ozone layer prevents most harmful UVB wavelengths (280–315nm) of ultraviolet light (UV light) from passing through the Earth's atmosphere, observed and projected decreases in ozone have generated worldwide concern leading to adoption of the Montreal Protocol that bans the production of CFCs, halons, and other ozone-depleting chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethane. It is suspected that a variety of biological consequences such as increases in skin cancer, cataracts, damage to plants, and reduction of plankton populations in the ocean's photic zone may result from the increased UV exposure due to ozone depletion.
Raheema Javed
156 Points
7 years ago
The Antarctic ozone hole is an area of the Antarctic stratosphere in which the recent ozone levels have dropped to as low as 33% of their pre-1975 values. The ozone hole occurs during the Antarctic spring, from September to early December, as strong westerly winds start to circulate around the continent and create an atmospheric container. Within this polar vortex, over 50% of the lower stratospheric ozone is destroyed during the Antarctic spring.

The primary cause of ozone depletion is the presence of chlorine-containing source gases (primarily CFCs and related halocarbons). In the presence of UV light, these gases dissociate, releasing chlorine atoms, which then go on to catalyze ozone destruction. The Cl-catalyzed ozone depletion can take place in the gas phase, but it is dramatically enhanced in the presence of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs).

These polar stratospheric clouds(PSC) form during winter, in the extreme cold. Polar winters are dark, consisting of 3 months without solar radiation (sunlight). The lack of sunlight contributes to a decrease in temperature and the polar vortex traps and chills air. Temperatures hover around or below −80°C. These low temperatures form cloud particles. There are three types of PSC clouds—nitric acid trihydrate clouds, slowly cooling water-ice clouds, and rapid cooling water-ice (nacerous) clouds—provide surfaces for chemical reactions whose products will, in the spring lead to ozone destruction.

The photochemical processes involved are complex but well understood. The key observation is that, ordinarily, most of the chlorine in the stratosphere resides in "reservoir" compounds, primarily chlorine nitrate (ClONO
2) as well as stable end products such as HCl. The formation of end products essentially remove Cl from the ozone depletion process. The former sequester Cl, which can be later made available via absorption of light at shorter wavelengths than 400nm. During the Antarctic winter and spring, however, reactions on the surface of the polar stratospheric cloud particles convert these "reservoir" compounds into reactive free radicals (Cl and ClO). The process by which the clouds remove NO
2 from the stratosphere by converting it to nitric acid in the PSC particles, which then are lost by sedimentation is called denitrification. This prevents newly formed ClO from being converted back into ClONO

The role of sunlight in ozone depletion is the reason why the Antarctic ozone depletion is greatest during spring. During winter, even though PSCs are at their most abundant, there is no light over the pole to drive chemical reactions. During the spring, however, the sun comes out, providing energy to drive photochemical reactions and melt the polar stratospheric clouds, releasing considerable ClO, which drives the hole mechanism. Further warming temperatures near the end of spring break up the vortex around mid-December. As warm, ozone and NO
2-rich air flows in from lower latitudes, the PSCs are destroyed, the enhanced ozone depletion process shuts down, and the ozone hole closes.

Most of the ozone that is destroyed is in the lower stratosphere, in contrast to the much smaller ozone depletion through homogeneous gas phase reactions, which occurs primarily in the upper stratosphere.

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