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What Effect Do Volcanoes Have On The Ozone Layer?

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Kath Senior Profile
Kath Senior answered
It has been known for some time that human industrial activity produces noxious gases that destroy the layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere. This normally acts as a shield to protect the Earth's surface from the most damaging ultra violet rays that come from the Sun. Its damage in the last few years has led to an increase in the number of cases of skin cancer, particularly in regions underneath the ozone hole.

Scientists are just finding out that volcanic eruptions can also destroy ozone and create 'mini-ozone holes'. Scientists at Cambridge University in the UK have discovered that volcanic gases released during eruptions accelerate reactions that lead to ozone destruction. The researchers found that even relatively small volcanic eruptions can destroy ozone and create localised 'holes' in the stratosphere.

Previously, scientists had concentrated on the climatic effects of the tiny particles of volcanic sulphate created from the sulphur dioxide gas emitted during an eruption. For the first time, analysing data from a 2000 eruption of the Hekla volcano, Iceland, the researchers discovered that volcanic gases may also lead to the formation of ice and nitric acid particles. This is a critical finding as these particles 'switch on' volcanic chorine gases, accelerating reactions that lead to ozone destruction.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Large, explosive volcanic eruptions inject water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen fluoride (HF) and ash (pulverized rock and pumice) into the stratosphere to heights of 16–32 kilometres (10–20 mi) above the Earth's surface. The most significant impacts from these injections come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfate aerosols. The aerosols increase the Earth's albedo—its reflection of radiation from the Sun back into space - and thus cool the Earth's lower atmosphere or troposphere; however, they also absorb heat radiated up from the Earth, thereby warming the stratosphere. Several eruptions during the past century have caused a decline in the average temperature at the Earth's surface of up to half a degree (Fahrenheit scale) for periods of one to three years. The sulfate aerosols also promote complex chemical reactions on their surfaces that alter chlorine and nitrogen chemical species in the stratosphere. This effect, together with increased stratospheric chlorine levels from chlorofluorocarbon pollution, generates chlorine monoxide (ClO), which destroys ozone (O3). As the aerosols grow and coagulate, they settle down into the upper troposphere where they serve as nuclei for cirrus clouds and further modify the Earth's radiation balance. Most of the hydrogen chloride (HCl) and hydrogen fluoride (HF) are dissolved in water droplets in the eruption cloud and quickly fall to the ground as acid rain. The injected ash also falls rapidly from the stratosphere; most of it is removed within several days to a few weeks. Finally, explosive volcanic eruptions release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and thus provide a deep source of carbon for biogeochemical cycles.

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