Wildfire smoke destroys stratospheric ozone

The fire causes effects of a different nature

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Wildfire smoke destroys stratospheric ozone

The fire causes effects of a different nature. In addition to the panic of the people possibly involved, the high temperatures can cause burns or carbonization or serious structural damage in the case of elements in concrete, steel or structural wood, with the difference that the duration of the latter can be scientifically calculated and then the permissible escape time.

Much damage is caused by noxious gases. For example, the formation of CO2 saturates the environment, depleting the presence of oxygen; in the event of incomplete combustion, carbon monoxide can form or in other cases, the formation of NOx polluting gases is possible.

The study Wildfire smoke destroys stratospheric ozone, published in Science, explained: "Large wildfires inject smoke and biomass-burning products into the mid-latitude stratosphere, where they destroy ozone, which protects us from ultraviolet radiation.

The infrared spectrometer on the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment satellite measured the spectra of smoke particles from the "Black Summer" fires in Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, revealing that they contain oxygenated organic functional groups and water adsorption on the surfaces.

These injected smoke particles have produced unexpected and extreme perturbations in stratospheric gases beyond any seen in the previous 15 years of measurements, including increases in formaldehyde, chlorine nitrate, chlorine monoxide, and hypochlorous acid and decreases in ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and hydrochloric acid.These perturbations in stratospheric composition have the potential to affect ozone chemistry in unexpected ways." The increase in temperatures and the increase in drought caused by current climate change cause self-combustion phenomena in different areas of the planet, giving rise to colossal destructive fires called megafires which can cause air pollution for hundreds of kilometres, flames higher than 60 meters, causing meteorological phenomena such as pyrocumulus, dry lightning and fire tornadoes as well as substantial damage to natural habitats as well as infrastructure and human lives.

The size of the affected areas is not unique, in Europe it is estimated at 1,000 hectares while in other areas such as America it is 40,000 hectares, other peculiar characteristics of these forest fires are the frequent self-ignitions, the speed of propagation, the extreme difficulty of shutdown.