Atmospheric Ozone

Atmospheric Ozone is one of the most important trace gases in our atmosphere that both benefits and harms life on Earth. High ground-level ozone amounts contribute to poor air quality, adversely affecting human health, agricultural productivity, and forested ecosystems. Ozone absorbs infrared radiation, and is most potent as a greenhouse gas in the cold upper troposphere located 8–15 km above the surface. In the stratosphere, between approximately 15 and 50 km above the Earth’s surface, a layer rich in ozone serves as a “sunscreen” for the world by shielding the Earth’s surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation. This absorption of solar energy also affects atmospheric circulation patterns and thus influences weather around the globe. Moreover, throughout the atmosphere, ozone is the key ingredient that initiates chemical cleansing of the atmosphere of various pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and methane, among others, which could otherwise accumulate to harmful levels or exert a stronger influence on climate. Therefore, changes to ozone anywhere in the atmosphere can have major impacts on the Earth.