Thunderstorms Punching New Holes In Ozone Layer
A recent rash of thunderstorms is punching new holes in the ozone layer, according to researchers from Harvard University. The holes are letting more UV rays hit the planet, which could lead to more incidences of skin cancers, they said.
Researchers found that during intense summer storms over the United States, convection carries water vapor higher into the stratosphere than previously thought possible, which led to widespread ozone loss.
"What proved surprising was the remarkable altitude to which water vapor was being lofted - altitudes exceeding 60,000 feet - and how frequently it was happening," James G Anderson, lead researcher from Harvard University, said, according to TG Daily.
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Where the water vapor met the stratosphere, researchers found that catalytic ozone loss -- ozone loss that occurs faster than it can be replaced -- increased 100 fold.
"Were the intensity and frequency of convective events to increase irreversibly as a result of climate forcing, decreases in ozone and associated increases in UV dosage would also be irreversible," the researchers said.
The holes allow in more UV rays, exposure to which can raise the risk for skin cancer and melanoma.
Melanoma is a tumor of the cells that produce the pigment melanin, which is responsible for the color of your skin. Although melanoma occurs predominantly on skin, it can occur anywhere melanin is found, such as the eye or bowel. It is much less common than other skin cancers, but is responsible for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths, killing about 48,000 people worldwide annually, according to the World Health Organization. Melanoma deaths account for $3.5 billion in lost productivity every year, according to the CDC.
In addition to UV exposure, risk factors for melanoma include having many moles or moles that have an abnormal shape or color, fair skin, freckling, and light hair, a family history of melanoma, and having received a severe or blistering sunburn as a child or teen, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is one of the best methods of prevention against melanoma and other kinds of skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wearing sunglasses, hats and seeking shade during midday hours also helps.
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