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What is the ozone layer?

The ozone layer is a deep layer in the stratosphere. It encircles the Earth and has large amounts of ozone in it.

The layer shields the entire Earth from much of the harmful ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun.

Interestingly, it is also this ultraviolet radiation that forms the ozone in the first place.

Ozone is a special form of oxygen, made up of three oxygen atoms rather than the usual two oxygen atoms.

It usually forms when some type of radiation or electrical discharge separates the two atoms in an oxygen molecule (O2), which can then individually recombine with other oxygen molecules to form ozone (O3).

In the 1980s, scientists began finding clues that the ozone layer was going away or being depleted.

The ozone layer became more widely appreciated when it was realized that certain man-made chemicals called chloroflurocarbons find their way up into the stratosphere where, through a complex series of chemical reactions, they destroy some of the ozone.

This allows more UV radiation to reach the Earth's surface which can cause people to have a greater chance of getting too much UV radiation.

Too much UV radiation can cause bad health effects like skin cancer, eye damage, and increased ease of getting sick.

As a result of this discovery, an international treaty was signed and the manufacturing of these chemicals was stopped. The ozone layer has since begun to recover as a result of these efforts.

This stratospheric ozone, which protects us from the sun, is good.

There is also ozone produced near the ground, from sunlight interacting with atmospheric pollution in cities, that is bad.

It causes breathing problems for some people and usually occurs in the summertime when the pollution over a city builds up during stagnant air conditions associated with high pressure areas.

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Historical Averages

High Low
Current 46°F 19°F
Average 41°F 25°F
Record 63°F December 12, 1931 2°F December 12, 1988