Eruptions Can Damage Ozone Layer | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 25 | p. 33 | Concentrates
Issue Date: June 18, 2012

Eruptions Can Damage Ozone Layer

Analysis of ancient Nicaraguan volcanic activity shows bromine and chlorine releases were large enough to deplete ozone
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: ozone layer, bromine, chlorine, volcanic eruption
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Volcanic eruptions at sites like the Apoyo Caldera, in Nicaragua, could have released gases that temporarily depleted the ozone layer.
Credit: Steffen Kutterolf
The Apoyo Caldera in Nicaragua was the site of a major volcanic eruption 24,500 years ago. New research suggests the eruption, and others like it, could have released gases that temporarily depleted the ozone layer.
 
Volcanic eruptions at sites like the Apoyo Caldera, in Nicaragua, could have released gases that temporarily depleted the ozone layer.
Credit: Steffen Kutterolf

Volcanic eruptions in Nicaragua during the past 70,000 years injected enough bromine and chlorine into the stratosphere to potentially damage Earth’s ozone layer, scientists reported on June 12 at the American Geophysical Union’s Chapman Conference on Volcanism & the Atmosphere, in Selfoss, Iceland. Scientists have known that such explosive eruptions can transport these gases into the stratosphere. But this work, from Kirstin Krüger at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, in Germany, and colleagues, is the first to show that the gases were emitted in quantities sufficient to deplete the ozone layer. The scientists analyzed minerals associated with 14 ancient Nicaraguan eruptions and estimated that stratospheric bromine and chlorine concentrations after the eruptions could have been 200 to 300% greater than 2011 concentrations. On the basis of a conservative estimate that 10% of emitted gases reached the stratosphere, 120 million metric tons of chlorine and 600,000 metric tons of bromine were released into the stratosphere by an eruption 24,500 years ago at the Apoyo Caldera. Just how much damage these eruptions caused to the ozone layer still needs to be determined, as does how much damage future eruptions could cause.

 
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