How Fukushima Impacted
The Massive Arctic Ozone Loss
By Yoiichi Shimatsu
A Rense Exclusive
Here, based simplified, are the chemical reactions in the atmosphere, which explain how the Fukushima disaster impacted the Arctic ozone hole.
The cold winter in 2010-2011 produced dense stratospheric clouds over the Arctic, which due to the presence of water promoted chemical reactions with various gases to produce compounds that deplete ozone over the Arctic Circle.
The Arctic ozone hole, that began expanding due to the clouds, radically widened in March and April, coinciding with the Fukushima disaster.
The damaged Fukushima reactors and burning fuel rods released many, many tons of of iodine (a highly-reactive ozone-attacking agent) and xenon, which soon transformed into xenon fluoride (produced when xenon comes under UV catalysis to combine with fluorine gas in the atmosphere).
Fluorine is abundant over the US Pacific Northwest and Canada. The jet stream carried the iodine and newly-formed XeFl compounds in a northeasterly direction, crossing into the Arctic circle and looping back down over Greenland, Scandinavia and European Russia. This exactly accounts for the oblong shape and direction of the expanded ozone hole.
From the Mainichi newspaper...
Researchers Report Unprecedented Ozone Loss In Arctic
TSUKUBA, Japan (Kyodo) -- The depletion of the Arctic ozone layer reached an unprecedented level in early 2011 and was "comparable to that in the Antarctic," an international research team said Sunday in the online version of the British science magazine Nature.
"For the first time, sufficient loss occurred to reasonably be described as an Arctic ozone hole," said the nine-country team, including Hideaki Nakajima of the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture.
"Our results show that Arctic ozone holes are possible even with temperatures much milder than those in the Antarctic," it also said.
It is harder for ozone-destroying chlorine monoxide to form in the stratosphere of the Arctic as winter temperatures are higher than in the Antarctic, according to the group.
But the depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic appears to have progressed greatly this winter to spring because unusually cold temperatures from December through the end of March enhanced ozone-destroying forms of chlorine.
"The 2010-11 Arctic winter-spring was characterized by an anomalously strong stratospheric polar vortex and an atypically long continuously cold period," the team said in the article contributed to Nature.
"This was a phenomenon we had not anticipated," Nakajima said.
"If the layer of ozone that blocks ultraviolet rays is eradicated, it will negatively affect human health," he said, adding, "We need to monitor the situation down the track."
The team, which has been observing the distribution of atmospheric ozone in the Northern Hemisphere, found in March that the area of low ozone density had spread from the Arctic Sea to over Scandinavia, northern Russia and Greenland.
The loss of the ozone layer was especially prominent in high-altitude zones, with the team estimating that around 40 percent of the ozone layer has been lost, up from a previous reading of 30 percent.
The level is comparable to that of the ozone hole that annually appears over the Antarctic in the September-October period, it added.
(Mainichi Japan) October 3, 2011