Monday, April 18, 2011

Record Depletion of Arctic Ozone Layer Causing Increased UV Radiation in Scandinavia

Over the past few days ozone-depleted air masses extended from the north pole to southern Scandinavia leading to higher than normal levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation during sunny days in southern Finland. These air masses will move east over the next few days, covering parts of Russia and perhaps extend as far south as the Chinese/Russian border. Such excursions of ozone-depleted air may also occur over Central Europe and could reach as far south as the Mediterranean.

At an international press conference by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Vienna April 5, atmospheric researcher Dr. Markus Rex from Germany´s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) pointed out that the current situation in the Arctic ozone layer is unparalleled.

"Such massive ozone loss has so far never occurred in the northern hemisphere, which is densely populated even at high latitudes," AWI researcher Markus Rex describes the situation. The ozone layer protects life on Earth's surface from harmful solar ultraviolet radiation. Because of the low inclination angle of the sun, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is not normally a public health concern at high northern latitudes. However, if ozone-depleted air masses drift further south over Central Europe, south Canada, the US, or over Central Asiatic Russia, for example, the surface intensity of UV radiation could lead to sunburn within minutes for sensitive persons, even in April. (read more)