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Climate: Australia’s 2019 and 2020 bushfires damaged the ozone layer

The devastating bushfires that hit Australia in 2019 and 2020 had a significant impact on the hole in the ozone layer, according to work published Friday.

This study, published in the journal “Scientific Reportslinked to the Nature group, links the unprecedented fumes released by the fires to the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica.

According to researchers from the universities of Exeter and Manchester (UK), “millions of tons of smoke and gas […] were injected into the upper troposphere and the lower stratosphere“.

The accumulation of smoke particles has caused the lower stratosphere to warm to levels not seen since the eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, according to their work.

Because of this warming, the fires have extended the hole in the ozone layer that appears each spring over Antarctica and has “reached record levels in 2020“.

The fires, which scorched 5.8 million hectares in eastern Australia from late 2019 to early 2020, were so intense they spawned dozens of pyrocumulonimbus clouds, clouds created by plumes of smoke.

The pyrocumulonimbus, which the American space agency NASA describes as “fire breathing cloud dragons“, are so powerful that they can influence the local weather, causing fire tornadoes and thunderstorms.