Researchers monitoring Earth’s atmosphere for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report that the ozone layer has stopped shrinking and can now make steps toward recovery over the next several decades. They reported that while the ozone layer has started to thicken in some parts of the world, it is still “well below normal levels.” These recent findings, reported last week in the Journal of Geophysical Research, were based on analyses of satellite records and surface monitoring instruments.
Scientists laud the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international agreement phasing out the production of ozone-depleting chemicals, as the catalyst that prevented further destruction of the ozone layer, which is critical to life on Earth since it shields living things from excessive amounts of harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
“These early signs indicate one of the strongest success stories of international cooperation in the face of an environmental threat,” says Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA’s administrator.
But just because the ozone layer is rebuilding does not give people license to increase their sun exposure, which can still cause cancer nevertheless. “This study provides some very encouraging news,” says the World Health Organization’s Mike Repacholi. “But the major cause of skin cancer is still human behavior, including tanning and sunburns that result from a lack of proper skin protection.”