You may have heard environmentalists talking about the ozone layer, but are you completely sure what it is? Never fear: once you have read through these fascinating and useful 25 facts on the ozone layer, you will have a good grasp or what the ozone layer is, what it does, and why it is so important to protect it.
25 facts on the ozone layer
1. The chemical formula for ozone is O3. That means that it is made up of three oxygen molecules bonded together. As a result, it is also known as ‘trioxygen’ where ‘tri’ means three.
2. Ozone does have a colour: it is pale blue.
3. You may have smelled ozone without realising it. If, after a lightening storm you smelled a pungent scent in the air, then this may well have been ozone which (as well as existing in the ozone layer above our planet) can be produced in quite small quantities when lightning strikes.
4. The ozone layer is a layer of ozone that exists in the upper atmosphere of our planet earth. This layer of the atmosphere is also called the stratosphere.
5. The ozone layer helps us by filtering the harmful UV rays of the sun out of the atmosphere before they reach earth. This helps to keep us safe from the diseases and ailments that exposure to UV rays can cause, such as skin cancers and cataracts.
6. The ozone layer has a thickness of 20 km.
7. CFCs, which were chemicals that contain chlorine, were used in aerosols, coolants, and various manufacturing processes. CFCs caused a hole in the ozone layer to form. This is because a single chlorine atom is able to destroy 10s of thousands of ozone molecules.
8. When CFCs were banned, the hole in the ozone layer began to heal, a great demonstration of how when human beings make the right choices we can heal the damage that we have done to the environment.
9. Ozone is much less stable than the oxygen in the air that we breathe, which makes the ozone layer pretty delicate and more prone to break down.
10. A hole in the ozone layer will also cause earth’s temperatures to rise dramatically.
11. The ozone layer is in gaseous form because it has a very low boiling point: i.e. minus 112 degrees celsius. The boiling point of any substance is the point at which it turns from a liquid into a gas.
12. The ozone layer is between 10 and 50 km above the earth, depending on which locations you are measuring from.
13. Though the ozone layer in the stratosphere helps to protect our health and our planet, if we actually breathed in pure ozone in large quantities we would die as we would find it highly toxic to our respiratory system.
14. Our car’s exhaust pipes and other types of machinery that use gasoline produce ozone in the form of toxic fumes mingles with other chemical compounds. This is another example of how ozone can be toxic.
15. The ozone layer in the stratosphere is not made up solely of O3 ozone gases. Ozone actually forms around 0.0015% of the stratosphere: nevertheless, this is enough to provide our planet with the protection that we need.
16. The ozone layer weighs three billion metric tonnes.
17. The sun helps to create ozone. It does so by taking the O2 oxygen molecules in the air that we breathe (which are made up of two oxygen molecules bonded together) and using its rays to split these molecules up into two single oxygen molecules which float freely around. These free floating molecules may bond together in a pair again to create another breathable O2 oxygen molecule, or they may bond as a triad to create an O3 ozone molecule.
18. Ozone is also toxic to plants – another reason why it ought to stay mostly in the stratosphere.
19. September 16th each year is the International Day For The Protection Of The Ozone. It was the UN which started this annual commemorative event in order to remind us just how important the ozone is.
20. On September 16th 1987 a document called the Montreal Protocol was signed. This document bound nations to not release harmful CFCs into the atmosphere, in order to protect the ozone layer. This is why the date of September 16th was chosen for the annual day dedicated to the ozone.
21. The ozone was discovered by a scientist by Christian Friedrich Schoenbein. He made the discovery in 1840.
22. The word ozone comes from the Greek word ‘ozein’ which means to smell. This name is in reference to the ozone’s famously pungent smell. It was Schoenbein, the scientist who discovered ozone, who decided to give it its name: it is interesting that he decided to name it after its smell rather than (for example) its colour however most people who have smelt ozone do say that it has a very distinctive and memorable scent. It has been compared to the smell of rotting seaweed – indeed, many people have thought that the seaside is filled with fresh ozone enriched air when in fact what they are smelling is the seaweed slightly rotting at their feet!
24. Ozone has also been used in medicine. In World War I, for example, ozone was used to try and treat a variety of ailments including trench foot and gangrene. It was also used to try and disinfect wounds sustained by soldiers on the battlefield.
25. A significant hole in the ozone layer was discovered above Antarctica in 1985, by scientists. It was quickly established that CFCs were the cause of this hole and this led to them becoming banned substances.
The ozone layer: both fascinating and important.
As the 25 facts above have demonstrated, the ozone layer is both of fascinating scientific importance and of great significance to our lives and to the welfare of our planet and all the species that we share it with. That is why it is so important never to use CFCs again. There are more facts about the ozone layer to discover, though: try and find out 25 more yourself.