Is there a relationship between global warming and ozone depletion? There is a lack of an intuitive relationship, for one, global warming, occurs near the ground, while ozone depletion occurs high above the Earth in the stratosphere. But, science cannot rely only on intuition. We must understand the two processes, then determine if there is a connection. Both of these problems that now pose a danger to the Earth, albeit different primary dangers, are complex, and must be properly considered before answering the above question.
Global Warming and Ozone Depletion
Does global warming, also called the greenhouse effect, and ozone depletion have any connection with each other, or are they two separate and distinct problems?
Global warming, also known as the greenhouse effect, is the trapping of heat energy in the atmosphere, in particular, the lower atmosphere. Energy comes in from the sun in various wavelengths, and the indivisible packets of energy, of each wavelength called photons contain an energy quantity unique to that wavelength. When solar waves are absorbed by the Earth, the energy absorbed by the molecules is shared with other molecules. So, when the Earth radiates out the energy it emits is in lower energy photons, infrared.
Greenhouse gases preferentially absorb infrared wavelengths, so the energy is captured by those gases and much of it is kept at or near the ground.
Ozone, located high above the Earth, absorbs incoming rays much like global warming absorbs outgoing rays. But, ozone absorbs higher energy photons in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum.
Note that there is a second ozone problem of pollution, but that is not the one of concern when we speak of ozone depletion.
Greenhouse Gases and Ozone
How Can There Be a Connection?
Greenhouse gases and ozone both operate at different altitudes, and both absorb different wavelengths. So, can one have anything to do with the other?
Yes. The ultraviolet waves absorbed by the ozone will, if not absorbed, reach the Earth in greater amounts. They will be subject to absorption by solids, just like any other wavelengths. And, after being absorbed their energy can be shared by molecules, and radiated back towards outer space as lower energy infrared rays to be captured by the greenhouse gases. Hence, there would be, in the absence of the ozone layer, more energy reaching the Earth and heating the ground, and more outgoing infrared photons being absorbed by the greenhouse.
Is Ozone Depletion the Only Contributor to Global Warming?
As a simple way to see the connection, and put things into perspective, suppose a person as an automobile that is dangerous. The danger comes from bald tires and bad brakes. Either could cause an accident. But, brakes failing might be more serious than bald tires.
In the analogy, ozone depletion is represented by the bald tires. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is represented by the failing brakes. There is a connection to warming the Earth, but it is of lesser significance than irresponsibly adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Yet, it is significant enough to cause alarm.
We need to address both problems, for both have serious consequences. We must understand that addressing the ozone depletion problem may help, albeit far from enough, with the global warming problem. As with most things in nature, one thing impacts the other.
The introduction image is our own Zazzle product using an image by Black spaniel Gallery.