The ozone layer is a very important part of our planet’s atmosphere, which protects us from the overwhelming heat of the sun. While time does wear on the ozone, new research has cited that the auroras could also be playing a role in the slow destruction of the ozone.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports. What they found was that a specific type of aurora causes holes in the ozone layer.
When we think of auroras, we often think of the beautiful display they leave in the sky, providing us with beautiful sites to behold. But, we don’t often think of where auroras come from. Auroras are caused by charged particles in plasma that erupt in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. When there are solar flares and CMEs, radioactive plasma is sent hurtling toward our planet and reaches our atmosphere. In many cases, this results in aurora lights.
However, based on this research, it is because of this that we now have a giant hole being eaten out of our ozone layer. Before this study, scientists were unclear on how much these particles impact our atmosphere.
In their research, they found a nearly 250-mile-wide hole in the ozone layer, right below where an aurora had occurred. Even scarier, is that this happened rather quickly, which was unexpected by the researchers, according to a statement.
An onslaught of plasma being released by the sun brings energetic ions and electrons along with it. Those particles then get caught in the Earth’s inner and outer Van Allen Radiation belts, which typically keep us protected. But, those particles that make it into the belt move into the magnetic field lines, which causes an interaction that depletes the ozone.
“[Electron fallout] from the Earth’s radiation belt plays an important role in mesospheric ozone loss as a connection between space weather and the climate system,” the researchers wrote.
Parts of this damage are healed and repaired quickly, but much of the damage is left behind. More research will need to be done- but this is a huge step towards understanding how our ozone works regarding space weather.