What is the Ozone Layer?
The ozone layer is like a giant cloud that hangs out between 10 and 50 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. It’s filled with something called ozone, which is just a special type of oxygen molecule made up of three oxygen atoms stuck together.
Why is the Ozone Layer Important?
The ozone layer has a super important job – it absorbs most of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. If these UV rays were to reach the Earth’s surface, they could cause harm to all living things. Here’s how the ozone layer helps us:
- Protecting Our Health: Too much UV radiation can be bad for our health. It can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and even weaken our immune systems.
- Guarding Ecosystems: The ozone layer doesn’t just protect people; it also protects tiny plants in the ocean called phytoplankton. These little guys are super important because they’re at the bottom of the ocean food chain.
- Regulating Climate: The ozone layer also helps control the Earth’s temperature. It acts kind of like a greenhouse, trapping heat close to the surface.
The Trouble with the Ozone Layer
In the mid-20th century, scientists figured out that some things we humans were making were actually hurting the ozone layer. Things like certain chemicals found in air conditioners, refrigerators, and aerosol cans were causing a thinning of the ozone layer, or an “ozone hole” over Antarctica.
Saving the Ozone Layer
But don’t worry! We’ve been working hard to protect our ozone layer. In 1987, countries around the world agreed to stop making the stuff that was hurting the ozone layer. This agreement is called the Montreal Protocol.
Since then, the hole in the ozone layer has been getting smaller, and scientists think it could be completely gone by the middle of this century. But we still need to keep avoiding the things that hurt the ozone layer.