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Carbon Emissions are Shrinking the Atmosphere

Elena Liciu reports on the alarming development research exposing the shrinkage of the planet’s stratosphere.

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Photo by Ante Hamersmit

An international team of environmental experts has confirmed that our dangerously high levels of greenhouse gas emissions are diminishing our second atmospheric layer - the stratosphere.

The stratosphere, much of which is comprised of the ozone layer, is the second layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, and lies around 15-30km above the Earth’s surface. It protects the planet by absorbing most of the sun’s harmful UV-B rays. Any threat to this layer is also a threat to us.

Concerning Research

Their new study involved the use of satellite images, spanning from 1980 to the present day, tracking how our stratosphere’s thickness has changed in the last 41 years. Analysis of these images revealed that our stratospheres’ thickness has been reduced by 400 meters since 1980.

These findings, as well as chemistry-based climate models, have been utilised by experts to predict the future of our stratosphere. Shockingly, they have reached the conclusion that without any effort to reduce our current greenhouse gas emission, our stratosphere thickness will continue to diminish, shrinking by a further 4% by 2080.

Scientists believe carbon dioxide to be the main driver behind stratosphere damage. It is currently hypothesised that carbon dioxide causes damage once it has penetrated the stratosphere by triggering a temperature decrease and subsequent layer contraction. Juan Anel from Vigo University, Spain, has labelled these findings “shocking”, pleading with the public to recognise the urgency this data is disclosing.

An Alarming Loss

The scientific community recognises that this stratospheric depletion has the potential to permanently distort our livelihoods. Anel predicts that stratospheric shrinkage may interfere with the use of satellites, GPS navigation and radio communications. However, greater concern lies in the fact that continual stratospheric depletion may have much more unpredictable and potentially graver outcomes.

So far, our current understanding of the atmosphere allows us to appreciate that it is instrumental in regulating the earth’s temperature and blocking harmful UV radiation. Without temperature regulation and radiation protection, all biological life on earth would be under immense threat of extinction. Therefore, experts are extremely concentred that our recklessness with greenhouse gas emission will permanently dysregulate our atmosphere’s layers and its protection of all biological life on earth.

Whilst this new discovery of stratospheric shrinking is shocking, it is not the first sign of greenhouse gas emission harming nature. Scientists have noted immense surges in global temperature, as well as shrinking snow covers and ice sheets. Experts are now desperately asking us all to change our lifestyles in a bid to protect our planet.


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