Volcanic eruptions can destroy ozone

Nov. 8, 2006 at 3:21 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, England, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Two studies by British scientists suggest volcanic eruptions can destroy ozone and create "mini-ozone holes" in the Earth's stratosphere.

The research by scientists at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford was led by Genevieve Millard of Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences. The scientists discovered even relatively small volcanic eruptions can destroy ozone and create localized "holes" in the stratosphere.

Previously, scientists had concentrated on the climatic effects of the tiny particles of volcanic sulfate created from the sulfur dioxide gas emitted during an eruption. But in the new study, for the first time, researchers analyzed data from a 2000 eruption of the Iceland's Hekla volcano and discovered volcanic gases might lead to the formation of ice and nitric acid particles.

The researchers say their finding is critical, since such particles "switch on" volcanic chlorine gases, accelerating reactions that lead to ozone destruction.

"We have shown for the first time that volcanic eruptions which penetrate the stratosphere can lead to the formation of the type of clouds that promote reactions with volcanic chlorine gases -- gases that destroy stratospheric ozone and lead to the formation of 'mini-ozone holes,'" said Millard.

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