Scientists have discovered a hole in the atmosphere that allows ozone-depleting compounds and other chemicals to bypass the atmosphere’s natural “washing machine” layer.
The lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere, known as the troposphere, is full of hydroxyl (OH) radicals which are known as the detergent of the atmosphere. This is because OH is highly reactive and can break down all sorts of pollutants, chemicals and natural substances emitted by living organisms including humans, plants, animals, fungi, and microbes. The substances become water soluble and are washed out of the troposphere during rainstorms.
But when scientists sent weather balloons through the troposphere over the tropical Western Pacific, they discovered a 9-mile-high hole in this protective OH shield that extends over several thousand square miles. Because it has only just been discovered, researchers are as yet unsure what causes this hole. But by letting certain chemicals escape into the upper levels of the atmosphere, the OH gap could contribute to depletion of the ozone layer over the polar regions and influence worldwide climate.