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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d91may89

Preliminary analysis of satellite data shows that stratospheric ozone is being lost in the Northern Hemisphere at about twice the rate previously thought, or 4-5 percent per decade. Data from the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS), analyzed at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, also indicates that the loss extends to more southerly latitudes, and lasts from winter into March and April, when more people are likely to be exposed to ultraviolet radiation. In announcing these results on April 4, 1991, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly said the increased loss could mean 200,000 additional deaths from skin cancer in the United States over the next 50 years.

The mid-latitude losses are considered at least partly a result of the transport of air from the colder polar regions, where ice crystals provide reaction surfaces for ozone destruction by chlorine compounds. However, scientists testifying at a Senate hearing held in response to the results said that sulfuric acid droplets, from volcanic eruptions or aircraft, may contribute to the destruction at all latitudes.

Reilly said EPA will intensify efforts to assist developing countries in phasing out CFCs and to introduce ozone-safe substitutes. As a result of the recent findings, Senator Albert Gore and 30 other Senators urged Reilly to accelerate current plans for phasing out CFCs in the United States. The Montreal Protocol, already strengthened once, is scheduled for another review next year. By that time, the newly released results should be more complete. A six-month airborne expedition to study polar ozone will begin next fall.

See Chem. Eng. News, p. 6, April 15, 1991; Science, p. 204, Apr. 12; Nature, p. 451, Apr. 11; Greenhouse Effect Rep., p. 67, Apr. 23.

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