Ozone layer (ozonosphere) is the upper region of the atmosphere situated approximately 9 and 22 miles (which translates to 15-35 km) above the surface of the Earth. The region contains a moderately high concentration of ozone molecules, which constitute of three oxygen molecules and hence its chemical symbol is O3. About 90 percent of ozone layer occurs in
a region of the atmosphere called stratosphere, which extends 6 to 30 miles above the surface of the earth.
Surprisingly, ultraviolet rays constitute the better fraction of ozone layer. Composed of three oxygen atoms, instead of the usual two, the layer develops when electrical discharge splits two atoms in one molecule of oxygen which subsequently, combines separately with other kinds of molecules thereby forming ozone. The layer has been performing a crucial function of protecting life on the earth very many years by absorbing UV light but is now undergoing depletion due to destructive human activities.
Importance of the ozone layer
- Ultraviolet light kills microscopic forms of life that include bacteria, fungi, and microbes, which help plants process and absorb nutrients from the soil. Ozone, therefore, preserves these vital processes.
- Approximately half of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from phytoplankton which lives in the surface layer of oceans. Without the ozone layer, UV rays would diminish hytoplankton’s population.
- The layer also protects human beings from sunburns, which is a consequence of excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
- It protects us from cataracts-causing UV light. This condition is currently the leading cause of blindness in people aged 40 years and above.
- The ozone layer that naturally occurs in the atmosphere eliminates pollutants from the lower layers of the atmosphere.
- UV rays have adverse effects on the immune systems. The radiations adversely affect Langerhans cells situated in the epidermis of your skin which are major players in immune surveillance.
- When your body’s defense mechanism is weakened your body becomes prone to several ordinarily harmless illnesses.
- The harmful radiations cause the blood vessels near your skin’s surface to transport more blood making your skin very hot, red and swollen.
- The effect of UV rays exposure to animals is far much pronounced than in human beings because unlike humans, animals do not wear protective gear to minimize the risks.
- Ultraviolet exposure decreases the productivity of terrestrial plants. It degrades photosynthetic pigments responsible for the manufacture of foods in plants.
- Ozone layer prevents stratospheric ozone, a pollutant capable of weakening synthetic materials, from finding its way to the surface of the earth.
- Ozone layer regulates temperatures on the surface of the earth. It, therefore, makes the planet not only habitable but also comfortable.
- Ultraviolet rays can damage the cornea leading to blindness in people at a younger age as well as in animals which have not adapted increased levels of UV light.
- Ozone layer helps maintain a constant temperature on the surface of the earth. Consequently, it regulates natural processes like the formation of tides, icebergs, and regular rainfalls.
Ozone layer makes the earth livable by absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays before it reaches the surface of the earth and regulating temperatures. Efforts should, therefore, be made to decrease the destruction of this vital layer.
By Joni Kim