Canadian Ozone Monitoring Faces Possible Cuts

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By Sheldon Greaves, Ph.D.

Note: I want to thank Chris Singleton for bringing this item to my attention.-sg

NASA maps of ozone concentrations over the Arctic come from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite. The left image shows March 19, 2010, and the right shows the same date in 2011.

At a time when, this past Spring, scientists saw a record-breaking ozone hole over the Arctic, new government cuts could halt measurements and monitoring of ozone levels in Canada. Today (Friday) is the United Nations International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. The day marks the signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which mandates signatories to monitor ozone recovery from depletion by man-made chemicals, and to issue scientific assessments at four-year intervals.

But while Canadian government officials remain noncommittal about cuts to Environment Canada programs for monitoring ozone, an article in the journal Nature raised the prospect of several program closures, including (from CBC):

  • A network of 17 ozone monitoring stations across the country that take balloon-based measurements of the atmosphere.
  • The World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, the international database that makes archived ozone data from around the world available to scientists.

International scientists have expressed worry about the possible loss of these programs; "They play a very important role within the monitoring of the ozone layer," said Johannes Strahelin, the Swiss researcher who chairs the World Meteorological Organization's ozone science advisory group.

This raises the question of whether amateur scientists could at least partly step into the void should these programs go away. As our own Forrest Mims has extensively demonstrated, monitoring ozone regularly can be done. The technology to do at least some of this is widely and easily available. it is possible for citizens to competently measure ozone levels with a modicum of training. This seems like just the sort of thing that Citizen Scientists could do, and probably do well.

In other words, this is not a technical problem, it is a political problem that needs a political solution.

We would like to hear from other scientists in Canada, amateur and otherwise, about how a new network might replace government monitoring should these programs go away.

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One Response to Canadian Ozone Monitoring Faces Possible Cuts

  1. Two points:

    1. Very sad decision. Canada is the leading nation for ground-based ozone monitoring. They also host the world center for ozone data.

    2. Caution: The OMI ozone images shown above may have serious errors due to (1) CCD row anomalies and (2) poor performance of the DOAS algorithm used by the Dutch KNMI to calculate total ozone below the Aura satellite which hosts OMI. I have sent a detailed report to NASA and KNMI expressing my concerns over their posting of knowingly noisy DOAS data from OMI. I only learned about this recently and suspected my ground measurements were at fault. The latest calibration trip to Hawaii’s MLO showed my measurements are just fine.

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