Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753


August 1, 1996

Allen Kenitzer Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (Phone: 301/286-8955) RELEASE: 96-153 SURFACE ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION LEVELS HAVE INCREASED FROM 1979 TO 1992 Solar ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface has increased over large regions of the planet during the past 15 years, as the amount of total ozone in the atmosphere has decreased, according to a scientific paper published in the August 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists and others have a keen interest in ozone depletion, given that the increased amounts of ultraviolet radiation that reach the Earth's surface because of the ozone loss, have the potential to increase the incidence of skin cancer and cataracts in humans, cause harm to some food crops, and interfere with marine life. Ozone, a molecule made up of three atoms of oxygen, is found in the atmosphere between the ground and about 37 miles in altitude. Ozone absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the Sun and shields life on Earth from its harmful effects. Because the risks of further increases in ultraviolet radiation are serious, scientists around the world are working to improve our current understanding of how much of the ozone-related change in the atmosphere is caused by humans and how much is attributable to natural processes, such as shifts in atmospheric dynamics, variable volcanic activity or long-term cyclical changes in solar radiation. The finding, derived from extensive analysis of data from the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) instrument flown aboard NASA's Nimbus-7 satellite, is based on the known relationship between atmospheric ozone depletion and the resulting decrease in protection from ultraviolet radiation (UV-B, 290 nanometers to 320 nanometers). The accuracy of

the TOMS-derived surface UV-B values has been validated by comparison with several ground-based spectrometers in Canada, New Zealand, and South America. -more-2"The increases are largest in the middle and high latitudes, where most people live, and where the majority of the world's agricultural activity occurs," said Dr. Jay R. Herman, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and the lead author of the paper, "UV-B increases (1979-1992) from decreases in total ozone." In the paper, Herman finds that annual average UV-B exposure has increased by 6.8 percent per decade at 55 degrees north latitude, where major populations in countries such as England, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia reside. At 55 degrees south latitude, which includes the southern portions of Argentina and Chile, the increase has been 9.9 percent per decade. In North America, the changes are smaller since most of theÊpopulation lives below 55 degrees. The UV-B changes for regions near the Canadian border show about a 4 percent increase per decade. "This confirmation that we can use a space-based sensor like TOMS to measure long-term global surface ultraviolet radiation levels represents a very powerful new tool for Earth scientists and others to use both now and in the future," said Dr. Robert Harriss, director of the science division of NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, DC. Studies have shown that ozone depletion is caused by complex, coupled chemical reactions. Emissions of humanmanufactured chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which break down into ozone-depleting forms of chlorine, have led to reduced levels of atmospheric ozone. If unchecked, the continued build-up of CFCs, historically used in refrigeration, electronics, and insulating materials, could lead to additional ozone loss worldwide. However, international agreements signed in recent years have led to sharply reduced usage of CFCs, which should lead to the slow recovery of the

ozone layer. Already there are initial indications that the reduced CFC usage is effective in slowing the build-up of tropospheric chlorine. During its lifetime on the Nimbus-7 satellite, the TOMS helped make "ozone" a household word through its false-color images of the Antarctic "ozone hole," which forms from September through November each year. The NASA-developed instrument, which measures ozone indirectly by monitoring ultraviolet light scattered by the atmosphere, produces daily maps of the global distribution of ozone in Earth's atmosphere and of the surface UV. Another Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer was launched on July 2, 1996, aboard a dedicated NASA Earth Probe satellite called TOMS/EP. To ensure that such global ozone data will be available throughout the next decade, NASA plans to continue the TOMS program using both U.S. and international spacecraft. Japan's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite will carry a TOMS into orbit during its scheduled launch on August 16, and a fifth TOMS instrument is being prepared for flight in 2000 aboard a Russian spacecraft. TOMS is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, a longterm, coordinated research effort to study the Earth as a global system. The TOMS instruments are managed by Goddard for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth. -end-