February 2000 photo

Photo: C. Burgdorf, NOAA / CIRES

Polar stratospheric clouds over Kiruna, Sweden during SOLVE

Ozone Layer

A blanket of ozone high above Earth's surface is critical for life, absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun that would otherwise damage cells of both plants and animals. This "stratospheric ozone layer," which resides between approximately 10 and 50 kilometers (6 and 30 miles) high, can be destroyed by some human-made gases – chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), for example.

CSD groups involved in ozone layer research

Regional Chemical Modeling: model studies, data interpretation, field campaigns

Chemical Processes & Instrument Development: laboratory studies

Atmospheric Composition & Chemical Processes: airborne observations, data interpretation

Chemistry & Climate Processes: model studies, data interpretation, field campaigns

CSD scientists have led international efforts to understand the chemical and related processes that lead to ozone depletion and ozone recovery. Results from more than two decades of laboratory work, field research, and computer modeling help scientists clarify the effects of people's actions (the use of ozone-depleting chemicals in spray cans and air conditioners, for example) and policies (restrictions in the production of certain chemicals) on Earth's protective stratospheric ozone layer.

Today, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (updated many times since its original passage in 1987) incorporates many of CSD's scientific findings. In support of the Montreal Protocol, CSD researchers work with international colleagues, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to periodically update governments on the latest scientific understanding of the ozone layer. The quadrennial report, Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, compiled from the work of hundreds of researchers representing dozens of countries and subjected to a formal review process, is coordinated and prepared at CSD prior to publication under the auspices of the WMO and UNEP.

CSD research related to stratospheric ozone depletion

CSD researchers Jim Burkholder and Mary Gilles at work in the lab

Polar Stratospheric Ozone

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) has effects on stratospheric ozone

Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

NSF/NCAR G-V aircraft


AV-6 takeoff from NASA Dryden during GloPac 2010

Global Hawk

C130 on the ice at WINFLY with parka-clad researchers

Historical Ozone Research