Monday, 06 February, 2023

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How increased space travel may damage ozone layer

The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) says increased space travel could damage the Earth’s Ozone Layer.

A 10-fold increase in hydrocarbon fueled launches – which is plausible within the next two decades based on recent trends in space traffic growth – would damage the ozone layer, and change atmospheric circulation patterns.

Kerosene-burning rocket engines widely used by the global launch industry emit exhaust containing black carbon, or soot, directly into the stratosphere,.

A layer of ozone protects all living things on the Earth from the harmful impacts of ultraviolet radiation, which include skin cancer and weakened immune systems in humans, as well as disruptions to agriculture and ecosystems.

The findings come as experts have projected a growth in rocket launches for space tourism, moon landings, and perhaps travel to Mars in the coming years.

So therefore, the ozone layer could be badly conpromised.

“We need to learn more about the potential impact of hydrocarbon-burning engines on the stratosphere and on the climate at the surface of the Earth. With further research, we should be able to better understand the relative impacts of different rocket types on climate and ozone.”

Christopher Maloney, CIRES research scientist


The research team used a climate model to simulate the impact of approximately 10,000 metric tons of soot pollution injected into the stratosphere over the northern hemisphere every year for 50 years. Currently,  an estimated 1,000 tons of rocket soot exhaust are emitted annually.

The researchers caution that the exact amounts of soot emitted by the different hydrocarbon fueled engines used around the globe are poorly understood. 

The researchers found that this level of activity would increase annual temperatures in the stratosphere by 0.5 – 2° Celsius ( or approximately 1-4°Farenheit), which would change global circulation patterns by slowing the subtropical jet streams as much as 3.5%, and weakening the stratospheric overturning circulation. 

 The study was supported by NOAA’s Earth’s Radiation Budget initiative.