Global Warming


Ozone’s Role in Atmospheric Cleansing
On the positive side, ozone plays a beneficial and important role in the atmosphere’s wonderful self-cleansing function. Ozone is the primary precursor of the hydroxyl radical. The hydroxyl radical is so called because it has an unpaired electron in its outermost electronic orbit. Unpaired electrons are "lonely" and readily pair up with others, forming chemical bonds. The hydroxyl radical serves as the main scavenger in the atmosphere, reacting with a variety of compounds such as hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide that would otherwise accumulate and poison us.

Because of its high reactivity and its ability to harm microscopic organisms, ozone has the reputation of being an air and water purifier, only some of which it deserves. A few commercial companies market air cleaners or air "fresheners" that are said to work by generating ozone. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is a potentially harmful idea. (National Institutes of Health, 2000) In order to generate enough ozone to be effective, such equipment has to produce dangerous amounts of ozone.

Whatever they are, the future effects of ozone must be predicted in light of changing concentrations of other chemicals and climate conditions in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is extremely complicated. Changes in the concentration of one chemical generally affect the concentrations of several others, often in very short spans of time, and this makes such changes difficult to predict and to track. Predicting tropospheric gas concentrations much beyond several years from now lies beyond the capacity of most computer models and even most computers. Achieving a thorough and complete understanding of surface ozone chemistry presents a multitude of challenges.

next: References
back: Ozone’s Effects on Plants



The Ozone We Breathe

Ozone’s Effects on Human Health
Ozone’s Effects on Plants
Ozone’s Role in Atmospheric Cleansing

Related Articles

Highways of a Global Traveler: Tracking Tropospheric Ozone
Ozone in the Stratosphere

Related Data