Particle physics research

USask research collaboration shows rise in wildfires could slow recovery of Earth’s ozone layer – Reuters

USask PhD candidate, Kimberlee Dube. (Photo: Submitted)

The major goal of ozone layer is to protect the Earth and its creatures from the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

University of Saskatchewan (USask) physics professors Dr. Adam Bourassa (PhD) and Dr. Doug Degenstein (PhD), research associate Dr. Daniel Zawada (PhD) and Ph.D. student Kimberlee Dube , along with researchers from major institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, collaborated on a project that assessed the chemical changes that occurred in the ozone layer as a result of smoke from forest fires.

A range of satellites have been used to analyze the upper atmosphere following the Australian wildfires that occurred in 2019 and 2020. Three separate satellites took measurements of the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air of the smoke region. The measurements were combined with model calculations to determine whether components of the stratosphere were affected by smoke emitted from the fires.

The results of the study determined that if smoke from a wildfire reaches the stratosphere, chemical reactions occur on smoke particles that decrease the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the stratosphere, leading to an increase in ozone-destroying molecules, and therefore ozone depletion in areas affected by fires of forest.

“WWe have developed algorithms to use measurements from the Canadian satellite instrument OSIRIS to produce profiles of nitrogen dioxide concentration and aerosol extinction,” Bourassa said.

Overall, ozone layer loss occurred at a rate of 1% in March 2020 in places affected by wildfires in Australia. The ozone layer should be replenished at the rate of 1% per decade under Montreal Protocol environmental protection plan, the local rate of ozone depletion will affect the rate of recovery if wildfire rates continue to increase due to climate change.

The effects of wildfire smoke on the ozone layer are similar to the effects of volcanic eruptions, according to the research team.

We now expect increased wildfire activity in a warming world to slow recovery of the ozone layer,” Bourassa said. “New satellite measurements that carefully track the magnitude and impact of wildfire aerosols are needed to unravel the effects of chemistry and climate change on the ozone layer.”

Although the study didn’t measure all of the factors that could influence how smoke affects the ozone layer, it does offer insight into what the future could hold if climate change is not reversed. control.

The study was made possible with support from the Canadian Space Agency.

Link to the paper: https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.2117325119?af=R